22 June 2006

Featured Poet: Jules Gibbs

Jules Gibbs
jules gibbs is as everyone is to someone something and to others nothing, lives somewhere, earns a mindless paycheck, pays a mindless mortgage as diligently as any god-fearing republican, has an excellent credit rating to fuel the capitalist/ fascist machine not to mention her small part in several wars even though she's a pacifist and remorseful for the bloodshed.

The Requirement

"On the part of the King, don Fernando, and of dona Juana, his daughter, Queen of Castille and Leon, subduers of the barbarous nations, we their servants notify and make known to you, as best we can, that the Lord our God, Living and Eternal, created the Heaven and the Earth, and one man and one woman, of whom you and I, and all the men of the world, were and are descendants, and all those who come after us. But, on account of the multitude which has sprung from this man and woman in the five thousand years since the world was created, it was necessary that some men should go one way and some another, and that they should be divided into many kingdoms and provinces, for in one alone they could not be sustained.” — Excerpt from The Requirement, a 1513 manifesto read aloud to native Indians by the Spanish conquistadors that gave the conquistadors legal permission to attack a village.

So they won’t be captured in photographs or video footage, the usher vainly attempts to banish the Mexicans from the section of beach surrounding the ceremony. The Mariachi band begins to play drawing more attention to the scene and thus more Mexicans who crowd around in baggy shorts swigging cervezas, brown bellies framed against the gray agitated sea by the wind-whipped archway of palm fronds.

The guard who usually polices this section of beach saying: Ayscuse me meez, you are with Shangri La? has disappeared and I secretly wish some of the men would launch into their Fifth Avenue routine: What do you want Princess? You want a boat? A jeep? Are you looking for something special?

It’s got to be a setup getting married in a place where a cab ride is always three dollars no matter how far you travel and night clubs have white beds that swing on ropes and men in white uniforms stand on street corners stroking the tensile triggers of AK-47s as I haul my birthright through the streets like some grotesque feature thinking shoot me now make it swift and painless but good and violent, make it cinematic and give all the money to the kids in the ghettos, no, give it to the worst criminals — a down payment on this well-mannered hostility.

Who else is sitting here calculating what one gringo wedding could buy —I want to buy him an overpriced margarita and stumble together out of the resort into the barrios where we’ll brave the banditos, tear our legs and torsos on barbed wire and glass shards cemented into the walls fronting each filthy little shack — our for-naught act of contrition, our anti-American anti-wedding — but instead I hold still until they are man and wife, albeit attended by uninvited guests, and take my punishment the civilized way— orally, anonymously, pig shit or human shit or the shit that grows on shit ransacking my gut until the sound of surf and the orange moon rising beyond the silhouette of my thatched hut is a set hallucinated and the play a schizophrenic monologue starring the body enacting its own torture coercing the absent mind to follow: Act One: The Body sins. Act Two: The Body repents. Act Three: The Body is poverty. Act Four: The Body succumbs Act Five: The Body is nationless.

Witch, at the Diner

She’s murmuring fricative blue

hush-hush things soft and

I wish I could just eat in peace,

quiet against the background clatter

and hum of diners but she’s got her usual itch

talking with her mouth open chewed food and

spittle dribbling down her crooked chin:

Salty! she complains and a spray of filaments fly

from her mouth, piercing the skinned-over soup.

As if ignoring her might make her vanish

I look hard at the coffee in my cup, think alone thoughts,

but she’s found her witchy groove: Remember this,

she hisses, air remembers old dreams; water contains

everything yet undreamt; fire consumes wasted souls and

unclaimed spirits live in the whites of your eyes.

I know the routine – her final haunting is always

my appetite: Do you hear what I’m saying? she implores

with a bony finger, Are you going to finish those fries?

Cat Girl

I’m street damp, violent

as a cat in heat

pacing beneath

his third floor window

under the streetlamp’s

violet complaint —

he’s another story

yet to be told

leaning forward just enough

to let me read his last line.

Drunk boys on the first

floor fighting

over funds for a roll

of toilet paper

but never dry

for a quarter bag.

I had to split my X

from the Y of that scene.

Old Black Joe’s iodine eyes

craving spare me

just a little to get by—

took no all the wrong way.

Dark upstairs boy

staggering in my head

— but he’s not the one.

My voice sitting hot

on someone else’s wires begging

to be played, crossed.

Tonight I’ll climb the escape

high on ketamine

watch the neighbor’s house

spark up the sky

PJ aching on the hi-fi:

Lick my legs I’m on fire

Lick my legs of desire.

The First and Second Principles

of the Grand Universal Theory of Worms


It’s not that I want to fly —

I don’t.

I collect feathers for a cape to cascade

from my nape, cloak me

in magical bird sheen.

I want to be


but earthed, concealed behind

the waxy greenery of my houseplants,

throw rocks at kids

getting off the school bus — unseen.

It’s only a loose sort of logic I follow.

At first I beat with love for the robins

enticing worms all day,

then the gackels arrived

cowed the robins away.

Now they both dine here equally,

although not exactly peacefully.

My lawn is the Green Tara, goddess

with her uterus in the usual dark places

birthing more worms.

The birds father and devour

father and devour.

It’s not nature or science,

it’s a recipe to stave off death;

the woman across the street

has adopted it with stunning success.

If her house were really a shoe,

you’d recognize the story but

contrary to the rhyme she knew what to do:

She gave them all broth without any bread

whipped them and buttered them and stayed fat and fed.

This is The First Principle of the esoteric text

describing The Grand Universal Theory of Necessity

as Determined by the Natural Laws of Self Preservation

in the Face of Inevitable Suffering as Illusion and

Form of Rapture Via Procreation as Cure for Infanticide:

Excise “kill” and “murder”

from the language —

they become something else.

Children perpetually

regenerate through her body.

Worms perpetually

regenerate through my lawn.

and so forth.


My window offers a landscape of duality

bracing nothing —as duality must —

but underground, a war rages.

This is the Second Principle of the esoteric text

describing The Grand Universal Theory of Suffering

as Vehicle to Nothingness and Therefore

an Attribute of Illumination Which Cannot Be

Wished For but Only Realized Via Willful Unwillfulness.

Thus the children pirated my electricity.

They came in the night on horseback

from the would-be shoe, 75 children

reincarnated 75 times, parked their horses on my lawn.

They fluttered forth their many souls,

shed rinds in my front yard,

dropped membranes like birth

strong incense rising from stained skin.

Bodies, many and minute,

percolated through the soil

discharged substances that suffocated my worms,

and entered my home.

I caught them in my kitchen

a bright suffusion of glints

draining energy from my outlets,

the toaster, the microwave, the fridge,

smirching my serene vision of the world.

I tangled their particles and cast them

into the innumerable pores of the earth

to replenish my lawn.

I questions my tactics now;

these new worms posses a will

and a memory — the root cause of war.

Across the street, 75 more

children born into battle, which is why

I beat with love for the robins

collect feathers for this cape

hide behind waxy houseplants

throw stones at the kids getting off the bus —

It’s only a loose sort of logic I follow.

Field Notes From the Cherokee Marsh

I’ll try to describe it with the mating dance
of three jealous geese thrashing long necks over the water
trash talking in that free jazz skronk – sex
is the bone of contention the best excuse for violence.

The trees here aren’t like the trees we know
but posses the same underground sense
reach into drumlin substrata, synapse
with the water’s edge where bodies sleep off
millennia in the effigy mound, which is why
when I come around that bend an old Indian
stands in rough skins and I must bow and bow
until he becomes the lightning struck trunk of an oak.

Across the fen a rotting boardwalk meanders
into a stand of dwarf birch where a bog of spring peepers riot,
split the air, hidden multitudes keen and bleat,
bang and blab some uproarious joke I’ll never hear.

If you were here, you would tell me
the dominant key of their terrible singing.

Down on warm bellyboards I want to know
who’s there in the copper black under cattails
collapsed — who brings me to my knees?
Closer, the silent propulsion of undifferentiated bodies
billowing. Closer still, they balloon, they undulate,
flitting ghosts with tangerine eyes.

The awful thought they exist without my knowing.

A bullfrog interrogates —
Why-did-you-do-it? Huh- uh- uh- uh?
And across the bog, a second questioner:

I tip my weight to feel the edge.
I keel.

Over the sedge meadow to the drumlin’s crest
where an old couple pose on a bench.
The woman beckons: Why don’t you sit, rest?
But I run from them, too, into the woods where I find
regurgitated pellets of the great horned owl who spread his cape
descended upon a black snake measuring at least six feet.
You were there — remember how it writhed in the bird’s clutch,
diminished against the autumn sky?

Want grips like a claw.

Last winter we tromped over clumps of snow-covered grasses
bowing in great swells like a petrified sea.
It was a difficult crossing and on the other side
we found ourselves in a field with a rank odor.
What was it we were discussing, so intently?
I kicked up a rotting onion, then another,
a whole field of rotting onions under the snow.
Oh yes, how every day I look into strangers’ faces
and think, how brave, how brave.

How at any moment I might betray
everything that’s kind and good.

I don’t mean to sound perverse,
but why does a fenced-in quarry,
a sanctuary for snakes with a posted warning:
No Poaching remind me of our love?

On the dusty path heat gathers.
I leap over a pair of sheer red thongs
contorted in the dirt and feel shame
though it’s not clear anyone’s been hurt.
I’ve read this all wrong, a conceit
for my pornographic affections,
guise of my crueler desires —

I can’t let go

A flirting pair of indigo buntings holds the foreground
as a fleet of F-16s rises from the air field,
slices the sky in deft and calculated pursuit — of nothing —
and suddenly, everything occurs in perfect symmetry,

and suddenly, it’s all scattering.

© Copyright 2006 Jules Gibbs

11 June 2006

Featured Poet: Ela Kotkowska

threadbare song

As I fall asleep, I draw the lake over my shoulders. My hips sink into the silt. The lake slips. Pluck at it, half aware. My clothes now hang on wood poles. A loose yarn threads morning suns climbing across the sea dust.

I can’t swim, so I just wear these beads.


the crisis temporarily swept to the margin

The lake disowns the bed. Forgets my left foot as the right one falls.

Into such deep slumber where birds weave traps and the wind sells clocks.

A sequence of images with pomegranate seeds and blooming battlefields.

Lethal rivers desiccate the plain. Archeologists uncover the fossils of Eden.

Anger still awaits to be personified.

Already putting out cigarette butts. I won’t look back to follow the legacy

Of footprints to an unsuspected landing. News and salt pillars resemble one

Another. A shortage of tears. Contradictory revelations keep tomorrow

At bay.


The sand the snow, sifting the grains the flakes, my fingers are cold, and that’s enough.

high low tide slow

verb: each word

has its rounds

Winter harvests. Snow pellets dimple the landscape.

Bury them in the visible.

The sparse weft undoes the canvas. A brush smoothes the scalp.

The field is rippled with spasms of laughter.

Feel the echoes come.

Moss crop yields frost.

Words anaesthetized. As blunt weapons under water.


In my sleep I compare the chinks in the ice cover with the veins on my neck. Dark blue tributaries in the liquid night.

We conspire against the government. He storms the city hall I steal glass from the windows. He flurries speech I filch pronouns. He spoils groundworks I nip traffic lights.

Our labor often goes unnoticed.

Books open but no one comes.

Water flows into the unremarkable, into the dumb, into blind passages, into arid zones.

Speakers ooze replayed speeches. A child laughs into the mouth of chaos, and, somewhere, a lame calf submits to sacrifice.

The eloquence of animals continues to astonish vagabonds.

“Sleep is better on the other side.”


unremembered song

When I fall asleep, seasons change. Lake sounds fill the lung and water slabs hang by a wind pipe.

One ear under water the other against the cloud, I hear with my mouth:

Leathery fronds brush schools of drum, wet leaves rot lisping in the firth of my knee.

Waves ripen and break.

How long have I lain here?


walking on water is no longer in fashion

You often confuse the lake with a blue patch on the map.

It is not just a question of scale.

To have crossed it would have been a joke.

Among the definitions, this one I dislike the most: border between Canada and the United States.

Neither baptismal nor amniotic.

With a strong undercurrent.

Multiplying on its own terms.

Intricate tales of forgetting.

You are wrong to refuse the credibility of its sources just because the lake is a ventriloquist


song of sorts

I fall asleep as through the weakest seam. The lake outlines the night, dislocating glances, and incites particles to revolt against the placement of harbors, so that waking is like landing in a mirror dream.

In fact, waking and falling, here, are one. A fine geometry.


The poem rehearses its lines even as I wake

Robert Duncan

You always store pebbles under your tongue. There is no difference between root and cheek. Sublime collector without an archive, please forget the taste of milkweed and my face in the morning.

In the dream, we dance off tempo. The chorus of gulls spits abject syllables and we pick up pearls.

You have anaesthetized numbers and defied heavenly calculus. Divine excrements forge new generations. Arctic lamp nourished by gale, don’t judge the bone by the weight of flesh.

We spin sand into thunder. Birds of prey alight on its branches.

You teach contempt to those who have ears and cruel caress to those who have skin. Before you, blind alleys grope for the threshold. Alpha and Charybdis, release the words trapped in mass graves.

The dream takes place entirely under water. I stitch the shores with your best yarn like a doublet.

Your hands turn letters into islands and books into lost ships. Fresh prophets augur old wars from gutted starfish. Babel of laughter, disperse my fears over the hundred and ten stories.

We fashion new rituals with our fingers. Trammellers catch in this mesh bowfin and perch.

You skim sleep from the dream and peel the skin from the mirror. Your frown is worth the empire. Boundless well, give me back the salt of my tears.

Now the dance is played in slow motion. We thieve in the interval.

Your surge meets the fall and your whirl foretells winter. Those who lend their garments to the wind enter the secret. Garden of lights, let not their last word be a scream.

We trade places on the fish market. The scales have been calibrated for the minimum of air.

You stamped your face against the sky and carved your thoughts into the ground. Pool of misery, please forget the smell of hyssop and the shape of my belly.


Minuscule icicles punctuate the horizon when I lift my eyelids.

I run out of breath before the phrase ends. Yet I navigate the air well with my elbows.

My sleep complicates at the edges.


solvent spells

Again, the waves curb backwards. Water recedes into the premonition of disasters. Nothing swims there but blank fear. Those who stay on the shore are already abandoned.

Luggage wrecks on the sandbank. Laughable calamities attract seagulls. Slapstick on ice: the birds picking locks with their beaks. Stone coffins piled into bulwarks. Survival is not a virtue.

The head of state has a cleft forehead. Into the undeniable. Because of blood.

Watch out. The enemy hides behind the lines of verses.

The dead always inspire more trust than the living.

A new pen traces a declaration of peace in the shape of a prison.

Birds disregard walls and chapter headings.

Refer to the list of deleted entries.

Automatically, the mouth issues an order to shoot anyone crossing the bridge. Both ends are flooded and no one remembers how he got here. A standstill.

To aid our children, we have simplified world history.



The lake pelts the shore with pebbles. Amateurs nestled in sandbanks like swallows, shield their faces. See stones skip across their foreheads. It’s time to go. Blood drips onto the beach and the bicycle chain is rusty.


for the unhoped-for generosity of snow. Falling on our knowledge of the city on the El tracks where sparks riot without anger.

for the hesitation of streets and friendly advances of sand. Towards the parapets and barbecue smoke of next summers.

for time passing like any other dog. After thoughts of hydrants and long-legged palisades of shore fowl.

for blue light bulbs burning and dying in narrow windows. Without roofs or walls shivering as souvenirs of heavier elements.

for Albion because here accumulate dream spoils and lakeweed. Here white grains of thunder and truce forecasts.

for Farwell because we must learn the art of departure. As mercury and ash, not to mention parenthesis and metaphor.

for the wind which covers rabbit tracks with diligent care. The same with which it dispenses invective and praise.

for the corner Metropolis and its redolent embellishments. The only interior where fog is always welcome.

for stacks of notebooks sheltered from fire by a woman hauling a Dominick’s shopping cart. Under a mound of curses and blankets.

for white columns of the viaduct even though water passes elsewhere. Because they mark the entry to transitory temples.

for the tortured tree facing the Granville platform, neighbor of back-alley interdicts. Its writhing of urban seismography.

for paper and ink and the rain of leaflets from clouded rooftops, for pocketed fists and folded spring knives.




on the tip of

your tongue

lies the port

of transfer



the portrait

in yellow



the likeness


the exile


to the letter



The lake is male and female.

If you are a man reading this a woman is this reading a man if you are a woman.

Eloquent in obsolescence, a liquid testament of far vocabularies.

Man and woman bathe in the poem, child follows a dog off page.

When the night falls, light settles on the bottom. Street lamps always lie.

If you’re a man sleeping a woman is dreaming inside your head unless a woman.

A girl and a boy are both a lake. Surely

They will rebel against red ribbons and copper balls.


a dialogue for two cell phones

“White horror lines the dream. I cannot feel my legs.”

“Rough cotton crop fringes the rope.”

“No room between the sheets. I speak smoke.”

“Underline my lips with crayon. As an aid to memory.”

“Blank lingo sallies forth, solidified gloss.”

“A pale sedative finally dawns.”

“Flocks of scholars pick apart the alphabet.”

“The blade was a misunderstanding but the wing hurts.”

“A distant movement numbs my hands.”

“This dream haunts the wharf: shattered fog.”

“Silence forces me to rename the elements.”

“Only a slim coast without land.”

“The relation is reversed. Letters elongate at dusk.”

“There is nothing to be said, no parts to form speech.”

“Something slid under the cloth and lurks buried.”

“Slight hints of another language.”

“This is a table. You seem to be certain.”

“Some words should not be set apart in the dictionary.”

“Terrifying succession of horizons, only one of which is false.”

“I can’t hear your voice although the lips move.”


a migrant song

When I come here, I come home. I do not come from here and, as I leave, it is not from here that I go. Here, I am at large. I wed the lineage of its etymologies. I translate.

The natatory fringe. My native tongue. My tactile noun. My ligament: jęzor like jezioro, the lake I speak.

I smack my lips and lick off the pronoun. Now, not own. Rather, unlatched. Entirely here.

Swallowed. Fluent lung. Listen. Slow down. Exhale the land. I belong to the unbound. Always less. Liquidated. As Algonquin or Illinois. Quicksand sails. I come second.

Paint me a name. Unlock the articulations of the tribe. Mishigami migrant. Large gift. Long for the flood. Big water spells.

Here come the hands. Utterly speechless. New blood obliterates blood spilled. Polished graves.

Clad in stripes, star-eyed slaves. Crave the soil where to plant muscles and cod. Look, child, the water is raked with larch twigs.

Proclaim this surface a clean slate. Each crumb sinks to the mudflat. Calm water breaks the bank.

I deposit my notes in the sand. The wind pots dry leaves. Do we differ in our desires?

I come home each time I come here. I conform my path to your thirst and my thighs shape your current. Glacial ancestors.


at lake

Let’s play hide & seek. A rock in water. Find me. A stray root. Hair over face. You are sand. A swift mist against the wave. A day star in the dark. Blindfold wish. In the hollow of a vortex. Count till I disappear. Spinning. Thrill. A moist circle round the sun. Slit robe. Mend your lips. Call my name and I will melt. Craftier than a shadow. Now. Look.

Copyright 2006 Ela Kotkowska