Eclipse of The Sun: Totality

there is no
blessing
for an eclipse
in Hebrew

although there are blessings
for a large crowd
first blossoms
a comet

putting on new clothes
earthquake
the passage of time
a rainbow

Above us, the disk of the moon covers the sun. You can look right at it without dark glasses for 90 seconds. It burns like an eye in space. Birds fly into the trees. We can see Venus, much higher than usual, and a star or two-—Sirius? We’re at a rest stop in Lusk, Wyoming, having sleep in Nebraska. At the edge of short grass prairie.
Driving back into town, we encounter our first and last eclipse traffic of the trip. It takes a half hour to go a mile. At Agate State Monument there are sunflowers and prairie roses and stinging nettles and fossils from millions of years ago.
A colander and a vegetable steamer from home cast sharply defined shadows of dozens of partial eclipses.

All week I’d been having intense eclipse dreams:

and in the underworld of sleep
you can visit
all the shadows
of your different selves

an ancient white-haired woman
sits glowing
without hands
in a room
too bright
to look at directly

a dark man
torments some young crows
(in yet another dream)

I’ve been writing a 24 section poem on suminagashied index cards called “Woman, Sleeping” which is about the eclipse, statues and monuments, and more. I’ll post additionally when it is finished.

Devon Miller-Duggan Takes A Fond Look At Her Readers

I’ve been thinking about who/where I imagine my readers to be. Maybe it’s a problem that I can’t come up with a clear picture. Maybe it’s not. I have zero opinion (a rarity) on where or how folks read my stuff. I suspect that some people who liked my first book might be a bit shaken by my second, which is very differently voiced, I think, and in that sense I find myself occasionally wanting to apologize to the folks who bought the second book thinking it’d be like the first one, which is a little silly. So far, I have managed not to do that. Mostly I just hope I have readers, and they’re welcome to read the poems however and wherever they choose. I remember reading an interview with John Grisham years ago in which he was asked how he felt about the various film adaptations of his books and whether he had a hard time seeing someone else’s take on his work. He said he liked the checks and otherwise figured they were out of his hands and not his problem beyond that. Minus the big, fat, lovely checks, I think that’s sort of how I feel. Once the poems are out there, I would very much like them to be read, but beyond that, they’re in other folks’ hands and hearts and heads and not really mine in some sense. Of course, I also assume that all my readers are smart as all get out, thoughtful, playful, and gorgeous, but that goes without saying, right? This whole question is interesting to think about in terms of Robert Frost, who famously fought against certain readings of some of his poems and carefully cultivated a public persona that was geared toward creating a very broad and affectionate reading public (this being back in the day when there were more than 2 poets in the country who could actually make something like a living as poets), but while he did not like the darker readings of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” I wonder how he’d feel about the consistent mis-reading, mis-teaching, and mis-understanding of “The Road Not Taken” as a simplistic, Kipling-at-his-worst, “buck-up sermon. Maybe he’d have been fine with it as long as it got the poem enshrined in the cultural consciousness and brought in royalties, maybe he’d be repulsed, maybe a bit of both. I doubt I’ll ever have that sort of problem. It’d be nice in some ways. But mostly, I’m just very fond of my readers, whoever they are, wherever they are.

Ozymandias’s Socks

I’ve been enjoying all the snarky and sarcastic comments on the internet about how we’d never have history if it weren’t for statues. It’s a funny attack on Trump’s statements, but it also points to some deeper truths. Statues have never accurately represented history. They are the perfect example of the truism that history is “written” by the victors.
Monuments are also deeply connected to the dead, and to a desire to mark the landscape and infuse it with a particular set of meanings. Chaco and Gettysburgh alike reflect this need. And so, unsurprisingly, what statues are is really art, not history. Good or bad art, but art nonetheless.
The Latin poet Horace boasted that he had “erected a monument more enduring than bronze”–that is, his poetry. But both Buddhism and common sense teach us that everything changes, and yes, most things are eventually lost.
Which brings us straight to…Ozymandias!

“Just off the highway heading south on I-27 out of Amarillo, two gigantic legs in athletic socks can be seen. You wouldn’t know it, but they are in fact the shattered likeness of an Egyptian king.”Ozymandias” is the Greek name for Ramesses II and was the inspiration and name of a famous poem written in 1818 by Romantic poet Percy Shelly after a visit to the ruins.

The pedestal near the monument also asserts that the visage of the king was destroyed by Lubbock football players after losing a game to Amarillo, which while plausible, is of course false.

The sculpture was built by local artist by self-taught artist Lightnin’ McDuff, who specializes in altering found objects to make new pieces of art. The sculpture has been vandalized numerous times, most notably with the addition of socks to the legs. Occasionally the sock vandalism is sandblasted off of the sculpture, but always seems to reappear. The locals appear to prefer the king’s legs be kept warm.

A plaque near the gigantic legs reads:
“In 1819, while on their horseback trek over the Great Plains of New Spain, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), came across these ruins. Here Shelley penned his immortal lines.” ”

This of course is a series of charming hoaxes. I”m pretty sure when I last saw it the legs were missing socks, but here is what they look like added:

Info from the marvelous Atlas Obscura, without which my life would be much poorer: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ozymandias-plains

And these lines from Shelley, who endures in my poetic pantheon.

Ozymandias
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

How Do I Want To Be Read by Serena Rodriguez

I can remember the first time I read Bluebird, by Charles Bukowski. I was sitting on the floor amidst a loud group of young people, drunk on youth and whiskey. But this poem. It made all the noise in the room, all the laughter and gossip, come to a halt. My heart hit the pause button on this life and I fell into his words. They became entangled within me. They took my breath and tucked it away in some old heartache. His words made me stop. I devoured every single letter, every syllable, and sentence. This. This is how I want the words that I weave to be experienced.

Serena Rodriguez

Taking a Walk with Issa by Hannah Mahoney

Taking a Walk with Issa

When I drop by his hut,
Issa is sitting outside on a bench,
his eyes closed to the early sun.

He offers me tea.
I’ve brought plums. We bite into them
and slurp the juice. He laughs.

We head off down the hill,
the grass a delicate green,
soft against our shins.

Ah! he cries, and crouches.
A snail is climbing a rock,
stretching its horns to find its way.

As we continue across the meadow,
grasshoppers arc away
at our approach. We clap

and do a little grasshopper dance.
That’s how it is with Issa.
He has brought some sweet potato

for the bent-backed horse;
we join the cow as she watches
a butterfly’s flight.

On the way back,
we stop at the cemetery,
under the pines.

I once told him
of the expression
“getting over” grief.

He shook his head,
picked up a small smooth stone,
and tucked it into his pouch.

3 Questions for Nate Maxson

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

It’s changed over time but I think of a single line in a poem as being almost like a frame in a film, one motion on the way to a larger object. Or maybe a gear in a machine: each one has to be crafted so that it both stands on its own and so that it moves the entire thing forward. If it’s too concerned with the micro then you end up being too clever for your own good but if it strictly exists to serve the rest of the poem then it can probably be recycled into another line with minimal hurt.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

That’s a difficult question for me because I don’t necessarily write poetry-of-the-body but there is a connection. I draw a distinction between the spirit and the body and the former features more into my writing than the latter. However when I write too much I get physically ill, fever and exhaustion which to some extent I tend to interpret in a somewhat romantic manner which is admittedly a little ridiculous. Maybe it’s the tension between the body and the spirit that makes poetry happen, like the Smiths lyric “does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?”

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

About being a poet? I like being a poet. It’s being a person that vexes me. I mean, I don’t like the non-place that poetry has in our society right now where all art gets compared to poetry but actual poetry gets left by the wayside. In that way, poetry existing is an act of resistance.

***

Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. The author of several collections of poetry, he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 
The Distance

All the chimneys in this town are expelling their defiance
Constantly against the unmeasured winter
But there are no fireplaces down below
Such simplicities go against the contract
Only smoke here
Because to labor in oblivion/ is to birth an oblivion
Pure blue chemical tidal light: to labor with oblivion/ to burn a green candle
For a pure nothing, a hollow black pomegranate
We would give our meager light
How’s that for a hymn?
I’m new to this industry
But I’m quickly learning
That all original thoughts are reduced to sand and then to glass and then fertilizer
And so on and so on
What do we have left, when we sweep away the crumbs from the table?
 
This disintegration can be either a threat or a mercy
I leave it in your hands, my familiarity: a feather for your instrument
 
(Where have I heard it before?
Silver bird singing to young ears/ I should no longer be able to eavesdrop on such delicacies)
Where the distance backs into itself and each end of the uroboros thinks the other one is a ghost
Where the cold blooded and the shy congregate quietly for Sunday school
:
The dreamland archipelago