A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


blur of Beautyface, blur of front-mounted cam, blur of instagram, blur of sunlight, blur of pollen, blur of sleeplessness, blur of anxiety, blur of history, blur of whiteness, blur of Airbrush in a Can, blur of registered trademark, blur of fine print, blur of fine lines, blur of invisibility, blur of orgasm, blur of mirror smudge, blur of waterlogged, the ocean, the fingerpaint, stipplings of bronzer, age spots, autocorrect, upspeak, vocal fry, unsupported argument, newspaper clipping, melodrama, gesture, impression, impressionism, water lily, is this the hill Tina Fey wants to die on, glitter nailpolish, broken skin, a wart, a pimple, sun cream, blur of windshield, of exhaustion, of no nap, of too late


yes, you
lose steam
summer coming up,
you get tired
baby mermaid
in her mermaid boat
hollowed out
climbs and climbs
and plunges
you listen
baby mermaid
mouth wide
check one more
off the list

Saturday, April 30, 2016

29, 30

Then I was digging out the 
watercolor set I got
when I was eleven or
maybe twelve and throwing out
the colors that had hardened. 
How'd they end up way out here?
Some tubes stayed squeezable these

long decades and those I kept
and used to make a painting:
peach, grey, brown, yellow, deep blue:
desert sunset, or study 
in salvageability. 
Goodbye to the girl who chose 
art: as for me, choose again. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

xxviii–xxix. Concretion


A New Jersey idyll would begin
And end with Route 1.

The antipodean terminals, Florida and Maine,
Coalesce along that serpentine highway,

Forming a vortex of vagaries and strip mall surfaces,
Flat blots on a depthless image.


Until, fascinated, like a zombie enchanted,
The rear of a Jeep Liberty greets you.

The heave forward crawling across your memory,
Even still, like molten chocolate down a chin:

A durable presence, a slip of ink,
On a concrete canvas.

26, 27, 28

Four a.m. thundercracks and
then fell back asleep to join
you at an overpass: walked
to the rail to see a house
being dismantled, each wall
stacked, intact, in a truck that
would soon haul them all away.

In the morning jet engines
sound off under cloud cover.
I didn’t believe these days
would come again: losing faith
even in rain, winter, loss.
It won’t always be this way:
learning my lessons again.

Two nights later there are two
of you and I’m supposed to
figure out which one’s really
you: not the giant with the
waxen skin. Right. My sister
asks me what my other name
is, but I can’t remember.


I didn't know it was a curse
until I can feel this body dying around me
The Last Unicorn leaping & freezing
I'm aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive
Growing up is like
you can feel joy & the curse at the same time
JT looked into Jane's face & said
we're all gonna die
We watched The Last Unicorn & I told Jane
you don't know what it is to be alive, you're like the unicorn
That terrible summer I finally understood Live Through Thisas the curse it was, and the bargain it was
I would die for you as the just payment for the work
of living
Jane says she remembers drinking breastmilk as a baby
A lady was holding me
Is this it, was this the last flicker
of access to the prelingual
Was the lady me, was it one of you
was it the transfigured unicorn, already dying
& knowing it for the first time
in the presence of that just-made body
who were you, little one, are you the body
or the unicorn I was lying on the pillow with trees
your forest you were sworn to protect
the cherry blossoms suspended
for one instant
the tapestry that can never be restored
or looked at again
the anti-preservationist
trampling in ecstasy

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reading Report (Bernadette Mayer, Columbia University, April 27, 2016)

I must tell you that W.H. Auden said that Rilke is the Santa Claus of loneliness.

I know it’s very easy to think Rilke’s a jerk—but just go there a little.

I want all of you to write a conversation with your house.

I was flying back from Chicago … first class … with The New York Times Magazine with my poem in it … isn’t that how life should be? It’s taken me 70 years for life to be this way.

In this case, grown-up work means, like, very confused work.

A good thing to learn at school is how to eat properly.

Everybody was a guy. They thought of me as a person to fuck. So my poetry was never taken seriously as poetry. I’m sorry to say this to you, since you’re a man, but one of the things I learned is that men are assholes.

Everyone thinks it’s so cute when a baby makes no sense and then falls down. But it would be just as cute if adults made no sense and then fell down.

Poetry means the same thing as engineering. You make something out of nothing.

Let’s put all these geniuses together in a home.

I’ve been thinking about animals quite a lot … I mean, that’s weird, right?

Favorite time of day, let’s see … evening because the colors are changing … and they can be so different.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

xxvi-xxvii. Summer Style


As the days lengthen I grow impervious
And resilient against time.

Not like a mountain, which is pacified
By the wind’s conciliatory whisper,

But like a star that burnt out
Long before today

But which still blazons and bears
Across time to today.


An improbable but nonetheless accurate statement:
A gay bar is like a moonless forest.

Both, full of echoes and élan.
Both, where durable forms reiterate in corporation.

Both contain a fullness that binds the night
To no memory but duration.

A more probable but nonetheless accurate statement:
A gay bar is nothing like a moonless forest.

My step-father took us out once to shoot
A rifle at empty beer cans,

Which bulleted off a moldering log
Like a frightened quail.

My shoulder hurt for days
But I occasionally knocked a few cans over

And the forest collected the crackling gunshot
And held it like a reflection.

At a gay club I pick out guys that mimic
The look of my step-father.

They almost never dance with me.

And that’s how a gay bar is like a moonless forest.
Formless bodies broken only by the dawn.

Good-Enough Mother

Am I a narcissist because whenever I read an essay about motherhood my reaction is wow, I’m SUCH a good mother
lol I’m just asking that question so you think I’ve internalized the right amount of misogyny
It’s like, if I wrote a fucking amazing novel or made an incredible pizza I’d be all like yeah you know room of one’s own or seriously I have a great oven and the water in NYC is but I’d also be like, you’re right, this is an incredible fucking pizza
lol I barthed a little in my mouth just now
When people say I mean it seems like he was born to be a father
Can I say destiny without essentialism
I was crying in the front seat and she was still awake, I forgot she understands English now, and also emotions
They’re having another baby and I was like seriously?
How long can I breastfeed
How long can I keep talking about all the blood
And yet there is so much pleasure, right now, even right now in procrastinating by writing a poem. There is just the right amount of pleasure. The neo-Rococo wallpaper. How many different shades of green can you detect in the leaves across the street? 1) The green right in the middle, like the middle of a Chewel, like the middle of a rare green steak. 2) The whitish green around the edges, like the outside of a Chewel, like faded construction paper. 3) The sunlight reflecting on the veins of the leaves: bright white, a blaze. 4) The jade-green translucency when the sun passes through, more golden. 5) The green in the shadows, flat, sagey. 6) The underside of the leaves, dull yellow. 7) The undersides with sun on them,  silver. 8) Every combination I have thought of but can’t see yet, the hundred potential colors, the combinations, the Punnet squares of possibilities.
Take me home tonight. The huge pleasure of 80s songs in coffee shops. I sang I don’t want to let you turn into a bunny wight and Paul laughed, he cherished it. How can these tesserae that compose our love also sparkle in the lyrics of this song, in my skin sparkling with taking home a stranger, not fighting a feeling, the synths glittering another possibility, the sodomitical mother, put your energy there instead. Party mom. Smug about that, too. Smug about what a bad mother I am, such a whole fucking person, flawless, a mosaic, I will blind you, I will end you, in the best way, I am the sexiest ourobouros
Petite mort/Mary Stuart/En ma fin est mon commencement
What kind of tree is that, though? You failed the Nabokov test; you’ll never be a novelist. Might as well be proud of being a pretty good mother.

2014: the year in pictures

I can feel the darkness under the photographs like a pool underneath a tarp, the surface gives. Will give any minute. How can anything be sinister in a baby wearing a gold crown, a baby with a scrape on her forehead, a baby sipping from a straw. A wedding, another wedding. Other people's joy. A magazine launch. My joy used up forever, but still clicking, clicking, clicking. In the book I'm reading: the click of the cliché, it's supposed to be the moment when the cliché becomes dangerous, when the hot metal scalds you, at least I think that's what it means. Clinched. Clenched. The fog and panic, I can't read anything. I sleep with my ear to your two hearts. The tarp gives and we fall in. Smiling, the baby on our two laps. Imagine a future when you look back on these photographs and don't feel the sadness. In this future you have been proved wrong. In this future you know your husband will never die. HA HA HA HA HA count no  man happy until. Healing is, like, I can be flippant about it about 70 per cent of the time. Having proved there is no future in which I would not feel the sadness. Having proved that this is the future, this present, in which I will feel the least sadness. Wanting to have a record anyway, a book I will never open. The weird dissertation document I worked on that year, I flinch when I open it. The whole year, damaged by proximity.
Last night in my dream I put Jane in a hospital playroom and administered my own epidural. Passed the second baby like a feather I did not see. Slim bloodwet weasel. Minnow. Not even. I washed the lower half of my body, assumed the authorities had taken the baby, for the usual tests. I marveled at how easily I walked. The second one is easier. All by myself. Then I had helpers, hero's journey. Becca said she could stay with me if I could give her a ride to Sunset Park later, to see Seth give his Wieners lecture. Jane had called Paul on a pay phone, he came to get her. Cousins and their babies. We went up to the nursery, I thought it would be nice to see the new baby. Shyly I rehearsed my speech: This is your new baby sister, her name is Alice ____. Realized I hadn't run the name by Paul. We paged through all the babies in their identical yellow Woombies, their red hats knitted in the shape of roses, their nametags. Their stupid names. No Alice. I read a Facebook post by DRG that said, if you don't make sure the doctor stamps the baby's name on its head right away, anyone can take the baby. They can just leave the hospital. Oh, I thought. Don't worry too much, the Facebook post went on. Most people who steal babies want to give the baby a good home. It's not always trafficking. I just made a mistake. I can try again. It's so easy. It only gets easier.
Jane kept calling the hotel our hospital. She loved that we all slept in the same room. She got to say "good night, Dad" just to check. I was hiding in the bathroom, desperately typing.    

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

22, 23, 24, 25

Awaited Kate. Bought TP
and rosé. I hadn’t been
by for a while—they were in
the midst of moving the pink
bottles from bottom shelf to
top. It’s summertime again.
I grabbed a Gabriella

and went to pay. He said I
looked nice, was I going to
a party? (Shiny purple
ruffles in memoriam.)
I said yes (I wasn’t) and
let him wrap it in tissue
paper and silver gift bag.


Just because I can’t see you
under cloud cover doesn’t
mean I don’t know you’re there. Not
under, beyond. She always
goes away but then always
comes back. I know how to love
the ones like that: weave a shroud.


I must come from some tough stock
I think while powdering my face
and noticing no grey hairs
or noticeable wrinkles
even after all this grief.
My eyes seem sadder but they’re
the ones doing the looking.

Monday, April 25, 2016

xxv. Materialism

Growing up I thought that ghosts lived in our basement
Ghosts usually appear in attics or spare rooms
But I slept in the attic so it made more sense
That the sputtering sounds of a water heater
And the hazy hiss of the dryer exhaust vent
Were the immaterial echoes of spectral
Bodies burdened by the dark and gravelly loam
And Devonian fossils dropped eons ago
Which kept the basement musty cool throughout the year
That space of connection and of disconnection
That snagged my attention late at night like a net
That dingy dusty dark below which marked my mind
And I felt my body melt even as eyesight
Sometimes melts in the formless confusion of night