CHANNEL BY KATHERINE FACTOR

Channel

We all live downstream. Osteoblast
rings are an enormous thing. Have you
ever seen inside the heart? If you have, you have entered
a forest. Ventricles abound. Now lie down on its floor.
Looking up is the miasma of trees; leucocytes
scan the scene – can you believe it? You are watching your chest -
I am here thinking it is a man’s, the men I love
that is the you in this poem and you are under
the parasoling canopy. Parasols are protectors: that is me.
And past the chest is the plasma TV. And I am
watching Micheline on America’s Got Talent, she
is the younger sister of my puppy love, assistant to the magician
Antonio, a man with Zappa zombie raging hair. And fire. And blood.
The zapper instructs us on. Down another
chamber, the dolphins are hemorrhaging from Corexit.
What has fallen is vexed –
foul fruit has fallen from the tree, mutinous breadfruit. Beaches are aflame.
The workers are pleading, I mean bleeding.
Is this why my left brain hurts? The headache, I think, is fallout or pollen or waves.
And the water children build sandcastles, moats retort an invisible oil,
the solvent explodes. So what if I am angry, will this solve it?
At Squaw Valley, that name, poets write about birds drenched in crude,
but we don’t want to say it. This is true: E – co-tro -city.
It feels weird to admit. To write it. I flip
back to Micheline. Everyone is so grateful
and loving, having their American dream. But BP is just
over there, the crab making every attempt to save
his house, a charcoaled shell. His moonmother was made for fish.
The gusher is now a leak shooting ink. The white man
with feathered trim croons the Reverend. Michael Grimm, the kind
with the two m’s, goes on singing. Even Al Green can’t clean
this. The heart pulsates. The molar undulates, is a mountain
made for cannibalism. This ends the show,
I mean home, I mean -What has happened?
Damn you, you hellmouth, this was supposed to be
a love poem.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

STATEMENT

I wrote this poem in July at Squaw Valley Poetry Community of Writers, to me a heightened place of eco-poetries. I was thinking of that day’s teacher Dean Young – his influence and his ability to contain constellations in his writing – while watching television in my quarters. As I marveled at how closely programmed the dying earth could be with a hope-blow-out of a talent show, a projective notion came forth – to channel is to make a poem an organism, an artifact of our consciousness at the time.

 

In workshop, Dean calmly defended Channel when it was described “a rant,” suggesting that control marks and holds the emotion. I was, in fact, so aware of the amoebas of music released in the poems’ making, pushing the words toward mycorestoration because BP wouldn’t, at the same time needling in scorching disharmony of anti-accountability. I was trying, then, to take responsibility at least for language, dispersing the pollutant of imprisoning dark emotions by forcefully accepting poetic taxonomies. Instead of running from the evolving families of “political’ poetry, I found, then, that to admit the heart-driven is a way to allow the few remaining rights waters have guide the poem.
Katherine Factor was born near the Mississippi but now lives in the San Jacinto mountains. She has work forthcoming in Quarterly West and the Colorado Review.

VEILED SPILL #1 BY JAN CLAUSEN

Veiled Spill #1

One/ This is the world: we agree on that much. Spilling, they loll on their mojo here and there, hurling much to the winds. Idle. Ashing. Desperately kindled. Roasting marshmallowy virgins on the points of bayonets. Muffled within the uncanny. Incandescent. Not to blame. (Above all, not to blame!) Regard their beautiful mugs and wistful abs. I hobbled, veiled, among them like a vendor on the strand. Like a démodé prophet, lip-synching codas, while they stoutly maintained that Being’s a self-starter, that whatever “takes place” would have done so anyway without our intervention, that politics is a reflex, superstitious behavior or else Tourette’s syndrome (This is the world, I said, and they said it didn’t matter.) We better get global warming figured out toot sweet, they moaned, cranking up the AC. They did it without a blush of irony. For them, it’s a no-brainer. This is the world. Where you can do anything. Synthesize a garden or tweet about Art. Pour concrete and sprinkle designer compost and sow exotic grasses. Draft an ars poetica on your mobile. Stock the second freezer with mice to feed the python. Where everything is superfluous like our bodies, but only an ant is more or less foolproof. I can’t get them out of my kitchen. This is the weird. Where nothing helps anything.

Two/ Veiled to the nines, I said we should cast them out.

Three/ An Ant! An Enemy! Morning!

Four/ This heat reminds me of something. I was traveling incognito as a child. And this was the world, and this was America. Riding, I remember, car windows rolled down, in the back seat of the Chevy station wagon, muffled within the uncanny, through some parched provincial state—Idaho, Montana. Stopped at a budget motel, chlorine pool by the parking lot. Dove in, displaying mediocre form. Some limb too much akimbo, Father said. Floated, blissfully far from criticism. And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

Five/ It seemed possible I’d spilled a little sugar on the counter.

Six/ I divide my time (now) between the cloud and the ledge. And this too is the world as seen from my brittle plenitude. (Cast it off. Loose it to the winds.) This was (is) the world in need of prayer or channeling. Anywhere—while arranging the white squares of ant traps!—you might experience a kundalini wakeup call. Divide the veil in two and pin it back. Think of the pubic bone’s halves like butterfly wings. Root down to the earth through your pelvic floor. Enjoy your teeth. Absorb your brush with breath. Be sure to wash your hands after handling the traps. The captain has turned on the sha-nah-nah sign. I presume we’re cleared for takeout. We’ll be on the ground in stitches.

Seven/ Veils on top of veils, all utterly transparent. The ants, a lot of them, had found a point of interest over by the stove. It seemed I could write it down, but nuances would vanish. Nobody would get it. I wrote what I overheard. Some consider it purloined. On the radio, journalists spoke of “driving eyeballs to the page.” I pictured (out of Buñuel or Dalí) a shepherd herding his ocular flock to pasture, then learned the phrase was only bloggerese for the effort to capture readers. For years on end, locked down in the seminar, I talked mainly to myself, but possibly it was healthy for the students to witness a female elder’s over-involvement with the text. I silently deplored their inveterate cleavage and spoke in tongues weakly from the parapet of my wimple. Discreetly, under the table, they checked their messages or IM’d fuck buddies. This is the world and this is human endeavor. He created an index card for each of his lovers, including a coded notation of penis size. She used the pen name Adonis for her man-on-man porn, but still couldn’t get an agent. She had a flawed idea of male arousal or possibly just the market. Note I said sow not spill (I meant the seed). While walking in the garden near the lacinato kale, I came upon a woman in a tank top. One shapely limb was raised above her head and what took away my breath (but only metaphorically) was the swirled tuft of hair licking up from the delicate hollow. I worshipped venery briefly in her sexual penumbra, as beads of water clung in the dimpled surfaces of cruciferous vegetable foliage. This was the world, where what I wanted didn’t count. “Shave your eardrums.” What was that you said. Oh, underarms. Armpits. Pluck your eyebrows while you’re at it. How do you “thread” an eyebrow? And how do you decide between “sow” and “spill”? Which do you do with seed? (Or—“sew” the seed, a frill.)

Eight/ The ants boil up through pinpoint holes between the counter tiles. I should be thinking of grouting, caulking.

Nine/ It didn’t matter what I wanted, nothing helps anything. A tummy tuck, a water cure, a pose on a sticky mat. Mad ants got into my stash of medjool dates. Extinction kept unfurling in the wings. This was the world and it was dying, blatantly. Had been at it so long I’d sort of gotten acclimated. From Day One, my lullaby had been, “Wake not the sleeping aporia. Mind the hypoxic zone.” Gaily decked out in mufti, one perceives no need for corsets. “And why would you need to put full makeup on just to read The Idiot and Theodicy?” Thus barricaded calmly within the wiki burqa, we loll and spill and sow and toil and maim, maintaining (startled, sorry, reminiscent) that Being’s a self-starter, that direct action is the whippet of the masses, that nothing takes place because of our tenderness. Thus do we palpate romance.

Ten/ The exterminator came in the heat of the afternoon: round-bodied, graying, wearing a dark blue uniform. He mopped his brow and spoke of the End of Days in a light West Indian accent. “I don’t know how religious you are, but there’s a man on the radio, maybe you’ve heard about him—he predicts that on May 11 of next year…that’s when He is coming to establish His kingdom. If that is true, our time is very short.” “But what do you think?” I wanted to know, always a sucker for eschatology. The exterminator paused, repositioning his nozzle. He appeared to be a man who took pride in his work. “I pay close attention when it says in the Bible: ‘You will know not the day nor the hour.’ I don’t see how anyone could know a thing like that.” While I was making out the check, he noticed my funny aloe plant, deformed by its affinity for indirect light. “Back home on my island, we break off a piece for any cut, bruise, or sting. That’s your pharmacy right there.”

Eleven/ She walks these hills in a long black limousine. She walks these hills in a crumpled Humvee. She walks these hills in a rusty old beater. She walks these hills in a knockout static kill. She walks these hills in a billowy blind shear ram. She walks these hills in a skimpy blowout preventer. Baby doll, baby doll.

Twelve/ I wondered: what would happen to the sky?

Thirteen/ Within its wild veil, the gritty scatter of the belly. This was the world. Why are they hurting it here? (And so I hunkered down and played with fire.) It strikes me that I know so very little in the round, about creation’s lumps and lunges, all its sore latitudes. That humming umbilical engine, under-girding everything, muffled within the din of spill&cleanup. (And so I hunkered down and burned with art.) A gulf is a gulf of relations—this much was clear to me, though I’m not even a woman in the regular sense (for instead of multiplying, I want to be alone, protected by the thick, opaque curtains of sentences that enfold my face and body). It was just water. It was just trees. It was just grass. It was just time. It was there for the living and I’ve never forgotten, here in my cloistered purview, no longer beset by ants, whose antics made me think of the old-fashioned raves my students used to frequent. Everyone would rush to find a party in some warehouse and their rushing in a crowd was the party. “I used to walk to the self along with others” (Darwish). I’m missing them already though they drove me up the wall when I found them in my oatmeal, in my tea. In Spain the pretty bimbos sported fabulous torture-shoes, adorable balls and arches lifted up in flagrant pedi-crucifixions over Roman paving stones. Newspapers filled their pages with debates about the banning of a simple facial garment. I hiked through art museums full of annunciations, flayings. Flew home (enlarging my carbon footprint) and found much the same—cheap amalgam of racialized hooey and imperial conflagration. Autos de fé. Everything twice as tacky as it was before lunch. Why were they hurting it here? I prophesied. I veiled. I came too late to drive the demons out.

Fourteen/ This was the world: belly-land, belly-sea. A bayoneted cradle was blocking the road. Earth lay before me, disemboweled to the horizon. It didn’t matter what I wanted.

Fifteen/ I spilled and spilled.

Sixteen/ I wanted the world to live.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jan Clausen’s eleven books include five volumes of poetry, the novels Sinking, Stealing and The Prosperine Papers, and the memoir Apples and Orange. Her most recent poetry titles, From a Glass House (IKON) and If You Like Difficulty (Harbor Mountain Press), both came out in 2007. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Coconut, Drunken Boat, Fence, Hanging Loose, The Hat, Heliotrope, Kenyon Review, North American Review, the Library of America volume Poems from the Women’s Movement, Ploughshares, Tarpaulin Sky, and The Village Voice, in addition to many other journals and anthologies. Clausen frequently reviews books and the literary scene for publications including Boston Review, Ms., The Nation, Poets and Writers, and The Women’s Review of Books. A feminist activist since the 1970’s, she was a founding editor of the lesbian feminist literary journal Conditions. The recipient of writing grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and NYFA, she teaches creative writing in the Goddard College MFA in Writing Program.

THE NINTH STAR BY MAI’A ‘

The Ninth Star

When the hurricane hit New Orleans black and white newspaper image in my coworkers hands. Her black curls, her white skin. I went back to sipping black coffee in a white mug and only said, my family’s from there but thats another story, Yankee.
This story the tiger who pulled me to his bed and made me forgive him like pretty princesses always.
The ninth ward is gone now overgrown with blue trees. put the earth in my pockets and hide from the bad dreams.

I hear you got oil in the bay now seeping into earth making eyes glitter. Dont forget me, girl, now that you’ve become rich.
You know they used to call your coat black gold you black like me now you old.

The earth is not the only who knows my name and I too will be called like star to gravity like milk to pink teeth thy will be done new orleans gone.

My skin drifts light in the winter like the color is trying to escape.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Mai’a ‘who should have been named Nikki’ according to the poet, Nikki Giovanni, is a visionary and media maker. She has lived and worked in the Middle East, southern Mexico and east Africa with refugee and displaced women under the threat of violence, also she has organized and accompanied communities and persons within the US/Canadian urban landscape, engaging in issues including: race, working poor, sex work, prisons, drug addiction, police brutality, and queer rights. Living in Cairo, Egypt, she is a free lance writer, poet, journalist, zinester, photographer, multi-media performer, and outlaw midwife. She has dedicated her body and life to stopping by any means necessary and possible the violence (whether it be state, military, communitarian, medical, domestic, etc.) that threatens our survival on this earth and to co-creating with you revolutionary, liberatory communities.