Gina Gail Nutt
(This poem originally appeared in LOG II/NAP
I am here for my obstacle course. If you prefer
not to be referee, you can be time. If you must say
how late it is, suggest kindly. The forecast did not
warn of snow, but it snows and I am happy. How
else would I learn to build fire and shelter? How
else would I see an avalanche? The villagers do
not play. The villagers dance to the fires they see
in the mountains. Come spring, I will not return.
Leaves in the fireplace. Home matters. The villagers
make tall fences. I knew a neighbor. The neighbor
shared a fence with me. There was no one else
to do such a thing for me. I played a woman in an
apron, dabbing at my eyes and cheeks with my
hem. I pretended to be sad all day. This kept me
from being sadder for a while, until it made me the
saddest a woman can get.
Now I am the wilderness champion. No hairbrush
or washtub. I wanted to do a nice thing because
you asked. So I went exploring laughter in the
woods. You’ve been calling me home. We don’t
need that language. I make my own songs. I can’t
care about the words to village songs. What I mean
is, it is too hard being a person. So I became the
Some days I see others. The man in the tent up
the trail, for instance, abhors the trees. He prefers
sky upon sky upon universe. When I ask, “What’s
the good word?” He says, “Always you become
the work, yourself.” Look, I am the wilderness
champion. When it gets cold, I cannot blame the
climate. It is only fair the coals burn down and
the village looks small and the mountains are my
mountains full of bears.
My dentist waited until
the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination
to announce to me
that I suffer from Acid Erosion
as if to contrast my petty health problems
with the revered president
getting his head blown off
He even presented it that way
He rested his foot on a stool
as if we were at a bar
having a convivial drink
Do you remember where you were 50 years ago
when Kennedy was killed?
Yeah, I said
I was with you out in the street
It was a chilly day
but we were in shirtsleeves
and we heard
and didn’t give a shit
he was a guy on TV who said: Cuber
and every time he said it we cracked up
until my parents kicked us out of the room
and we went upstairs
to perform quasi-homosexual explorations
, he said
the power of memory
the power of dentistry
While you were overseas this trip you contracted
a case of aggravated Acid Erosion
That’s a cruel thing to say, I said
, he said
I say similar things to people all the time
even people I’ve just met
people I’ve never seen before
and have never seen me
beautiful women and ugly men
men who have huge pores on their noses
pores that stare at me and give me the creeps
all kinds of people
I can treat it
Acid Erosion, I said
but I’ve got to go overseas again
back to the desert
the day after tomorrow
so any treatment will have to wait
, he said, whatever
They’re your teeth
A head riddled with Acid Erosion
is an excellent way to meet
both men and women
YEAR OF LOVE AND HUNGER
There are many seasons
in the long year of love and hunger.
They bring reconciliation and they bring the sword.
Mostly, though, they dissolve us.
In winter, the underworld is too accessible.
Ferries leave every minute from every darkened corner.
The hearses roam the streets, looking for fares.
There are many seasons,
but only one progression.
Winter outdoes itself,
kills off all but the strongest frivolity,
makes us abandon spring’s visions.
Watch the main characters flee
paradise’s broken body.
Watch the ecstatic from the marketplace
return as a grim judge.
THE TARTARUS LOCAL
You drink with the dead in unfinished basements.
Strangers bring liquor
and call you by the wrong name.
The devil and the ghosts,
sasquatch and the aliens
all want what you want.
They want to exist.
Body of a man and face of a specter,
you park by the power station
and wait behind civilization,
in this lottery’s overlong prerequisite,
for your due.
“Guys like us don’t get discovered.
We hustle or we sink,”
says the man on the train.
In His early, desperate days,
in a forest of echoes and shadows,
Yahweh named Himself “I Am,”
as if that was what differentiated Him
from the rest of the named world.
At night, you pass obliquely into December,
like you might drive into a different state
on a back road.
It takes nine days for a brass anvil
to fall from heaven to earth
and nine days for it to fall from earth to Tartarus,
from where the gods clambered up Olympus.
There are gradations of existence
and there is movement.
THIRTEEN WAYS OF COMING ON A BLACKBIRD
for Rauan & for Justin
The river of come barely moves.
A river of cataract.
In a covered bridge
A dog is coming on a blackbird.
Two blackbirds clean the come
Off each other’s wings
In a display of tenderness
That can’t last,
Because coming on a blackbird
A blackbird thrashes inside.
It hollers for light, claws for light,
Claws for the password for light,
But all it gets is come on.
The faucet runs openly.
And there are no windows here.
Just a curtain. Just a curtain.
This means a blackbird
Is being come on.
Beneath the massive chandelier
In dimming light
A circle is formed to watch
A blackbird come
On another blackbird.
It was when I said, “One must come
On a blackbird to flourish,”
That we saw the resurgence
Of manual competence.
But the homepage
Being come on.
We are berserk for come.
We are the coming industrial complex.
We are berserk
On a blackbird.
Between the offense of being thrown
Into the world without consent
And the offense of having to scratch
Meaning into the day of this world
Is a blackbird singing
After being come on.
The beauty of coming on a blackbird
Is watching it drown
In something you made
Without the help
Of an expert.
Gazes at our planet.
Some gaze back.
Of astronomical gazing.
All the moon can see now
Is a herd of tulips beside a barn:
Big silent bulbs. A weathervane,
Not a speck of rust, watches a boy
Stumble into the tulips
After coming on a blackbird.
It was coming all afternoon.
A deluge of come and fossils
Coming so hard
All over a blackbird.
THREE RECORDINGS: PHILADELPHIA
A knot of children vie for sticks of chalk
and draw a penis on the wall that hems
the city park. Below the shaft the kids
attach humungous balls, giggling,
amused by their subversive scrawls – one tip
emitting purple dashes.
Behind a car, a dog bullies its snout
in a diaper full of waste, then takes off.
An airplane’s shadow flaps across the brick
and slaps the kids who kick a music box
around the street – its top is nearly torn
away as golden hinges scratch and flake
and start to break each time they scrape the curb.
An office chair, empty on the corner
of Broad. The metal stem that joins the seat
and back is hidden by a plastic shell.
The people standing near don’t seem to care
or notice, though if one were moved to sit
they’d see a figure stopped along the curb,
a tallish man whose body stands erect
except his head, which bows, so when he vomits
the contents of his stomach meet his shirt
and never reach the ground. Nearby his two
companions sit in beach chairs, drawing
on cigarettes and blowing upward, shaded by
aluminum awnings attached to cramped
row homes painted over a thousand times.