Eileen R. Tabios

From The Ashbery Riff-Offs
—where each poem begins with 1 or 1-2 lines from “Self-Portrait in a Convex
Mirror” by John Ashbery

Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: The Optimist’s Ciphertext

The diagram still sketched on the wind
haunts, refuses evaporation so that
the world might be seen with more
clarity. Clarity, as lives of quiet
desperation imply, is untrustworthy: we
all know a hit-and-run driver who melted
into a suburb which has never shivered
from a siren. What we have is a friend-of
-a-friend professing a plan for a master
-piece “so eloquent the Vatican’s gnomes
will come knocking”—yet its rationale
relies on an acquaintance-of-an-acquaint
-ance dutifully memorizing Berlin “for
sympathizers” then Tahiti “for deliberate
dissonance” then Miami for “enforced
hermitry among those still faithful to high
heels.” All are required to open a steel vault
without releasing phosgene gas to reveal
the masterpiece that’s elevated all
encountered critics into collectors, so
seduced were they by the painting’s
denial of primary colors. I admit I can’t
fathom or perhaps picture, the charisma
of absent reds, yellows, and blues until
I realize they are the colors found
rippling across the flag of your birth
land that’s lapsed to a paltry figment
of imagination. How ironic, indeed, that
you dared to plan after embracing
orphanhood—an ambition that refuses
to be dispelled by wind, memory, or
scarlet lips fashioning a moue. You say
any diaspora teaches the futility of
skepticism. You emphasize, flags fall
down their steel poles everyday yet
they continue to lead spies into lost
evenings with shot glasses. I get it: to
second-guess the blueprints that
created this safe house is pointless—
it provides, for now, the only roof under
which we can safely open, heat, and eat
from cans of stewed beef well before
their expiration dates. Before continuing
to plot, we need fuel. Shall we dine?

Advertisements

Aileen Cassinetto 

Lily Briscoe Was Here

The Attic, 1990
So loveliness reigned
and stillness,
and in the attic,
clasped hands,
among the faded
and perishing
(window, chair, light)
Here they remain
clasping hands—
With “the lives that they lived”
The lives that stand still, here.

Bloomsbury, 1914
Blast and suffrage
and Marinetti!
See the landscape shift
its shape to show figures—
female and famously
huddled,
foreshadowing an orange
armchair, ordinary and
unperturbed, inside an orange-
roofed barn. Yonder,
a swirl of silver and amber,
viridescent and vanishing
in a waterless tub.

Paris, 1919
In Montparnasse, on the left
bank of the Seine,
where the sun shone brightest,
I met Nina.
Watched her dance on tabletops.
I could see clearly,
her shape in cadmium yellow—
an honest color.
and my undoing.

Isle of Skye, 1920
The whole thing changed.
The lighthouse in eclipsed
light and the line
of the coast, dissolving
like salt
cellars on a lace tablecloth,
only the Jackmanii
remained, wedge-shaped—
purple and unresolved.
As for the kitchen table—
there it was, scoured and
upended in the fork
of a pear tree, its four legs
in the air, like a Chinese road
painting, liquescing into a blank
canvas, white and unwavering.

San Francisco, 1940
The bridges were built.
And to the City by the Bay, I came,
Chinese eyes set on
the Pacific and its World’s Fair.
Within a palace of concrete and steel,
I painted my panels next to Diego’s.
The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent
he called it.
In other words, Pan American Unity,
rooted in the soil, moving forward,
machine-like.
Young Emmy Lou—whom I liked despite—
and her friends, Irene and Mona,
were a sight to see before 22 feet
of fresco—women can paint!
(Emmy’s grandmother would have
been proud, she who “fought
for due process when women
were committed to mental
institutions simply on the word
of their husbands.”)
As for me, I was sixty and free
to paint my world of form and color.
I was told I was out of fashion,
but what can I say—
those fauve mauves drive me wild.

New York City, 1960
The
great revelation
never came. But
here’s
a little
miracle: The Purple
Triangle
was shown
on Tenth Street.
Just
there, me
on a wall.

London, 2000
Dulwich Picture Gallery opened today the first major solo exhibition of work by Lily Briscoe…

“Then beneath the colour there was the shape. She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed.”

Allen Jones

The modern bony fish

Because those who view the cosmos as basically nonexistent are sensitive to very small changes of temperature, except for traffic along the coast, most information—for example the elementary words or sounds of South African rivers—before being measured, must determine a mining method, produce a design plan accompanied by reproductive organs prepared by a species of the bony fish, and choose a monistic location.

The function must be determined

Therefore, the internal features of missiles and spacecraft—the beak, esophagus, first ganglion, and the great Iranian religious prophet and teacher, Zoroaster (whose amazing memory and powers of observation make him comparable to the modern day concrete gravity dam, though most information is a sequence of choices)—are designed to protect businesses against the possible dishonesty of semantics and symbolism in mystical experience.

Charles Perrone

Relative Antipathy

A standard uncle and an appointed step aunt
have agreed to declare overly daunting
the inherited tasks of unmasking courtiers
wanting in basic math and fundamental decency,
of separating the entangled antlers
of dueling demons of dollar diplomacy,
and of convincing the fan base that the anthem
thus intoned simply should instill
nary an ounce of pride.

Allen C. Jones

Deadicted Pluzzer

I arode you, so nlaturaly attmpet to saw
and cnotscurt a jagisw of this wrold,
flierecy rginrearnag our dtisnat, deresordid
dmears. Sneadss hroves wthiin a plie
of bule pieces, curevd insuriotsn,
cradarobd dietsines. Your ctonours
slitl esixt sheatweert, callery as a cicelltoon
of croner pieces. I lgune across an urbluntane
tlabe and insitsently celleroct all fuor.

Joel Chace

from Mouth Pieces

 

Mouth enters  —  well, hops, really  —

into the academy.

Long, lonely  —  well, empty,

really  —  corridors.  Silence in

those hallways.  Two ears hear

another silence:  of ones who

don’t wish to be found, to be

found out.

The great hall is ornate,

unpeopled, terribly hushed.

Hand holds an unshelved  book that

won’t open.  One after

another, books that won’t open.

Andrew Brenza

Poem Titled II

vergent snow
and so many
unconditional
stars that it is no
place but ghost-
herd to think I’m
faking this my
shadow art on
a wave of harrow
so a bull it’s sleeping
I imagine by a vineyard
in Spanish grain
though lightning dims
its fringe of flowers
is it cosmos you
wonder is it pain

Joseph Harrington

[sound a word]

sound a word
like organdy
waves

mottles
compass, stays
sudden

tree blooms,
secret water
ouzel woes

dingy doing
emotional thumbs
plus la change

of yearly
agues the wind
a stampede

argues an augury
bell-bye, impedes
involute

stamens, thrashers
scrape humus than
scraper taking

human nouns:
poignant after-image
copies

of copies
au bout de
abouts

Heath Brougher

Paper People

I am boiling away [we
are all one]

I am piebald
in the face

sludges of soft dirty meat
pressed through chain-linked fences

the currency of the currency
is concurrently concurrent
with the altitude of the sun
the attitude of the people

all roiling riot gear ready to go

you dig a hole in the water

you blacken your hands.

Eileen Tabios

Bit Coin Bling

Lexus engineers—Life defined as credit card—
A glimpse of eternity in black obsidian—
Financial advisors attuned to the good—

A silver platter forgotten to tarnish the beach:
a platter serving sunlight—The artist traded identity
for a Tiffany brand—Las Vegas invites you home

with The Topless, The Wet, The White: Mandalay Bay!
Shoes subject to credit approval—Ford defining
“Escape”: blowing by a mountain-high 18-wheeler

through 200 horsepower V8—Microsoft become Mom
snooping on our passions—Diamond traders advocate
feminism: Women of the World! Buy Your Own!

W Hotel promises to balance “style” and “soul”—
Tequila Corazon de Agave alchemized from the heart
of blue agave bred in the rich, red soil of the “Highlands”

in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico—The luxury of appointments;
the privilege of appointments—The classic contents of
the Filipino Balikbayan Box:

Dove soap
L’Oreal shampoo
Colgate (“has to be Colgate, not Crest”) toothpaste
SPAM corned beef
Set of Encyclopedia Brittanica from the 1970s
Nestle’s Quick chocolate
Folger’s (nowadays, Walmart house brand) coffee
Snickers
M&Ms
Irish Spring soap
Libby’s corned beef
Costco Vitamin B-12
See’s chocolates
Back issues of Conde Nast Traveler, The New Yorker, Marie Claire, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Glamour
Oil of Olay lotion
Almay lotion
Ziploc plastic bags
Nutella
Reynolds aluminum foil and saran wrap
Campbell’s soups
Nine West and Liz Claiborne purses (“from factory outlets”)
Parker pens with refills
Osh Kosh playsuit
Baby Gap, Old Navy and Fisher Price onesies
Bayer aspirin
Carnation instant creamer
Nail polish: “L’Oreal for family, Maybelline or Wet n Wild for the servants”
Shampoo: “Pantene for family, Suave for neighbors”

Gifts differentiated among recipients—a matron’s pain
-staking definitions of servants versus those served—
Giftbox as the gift—Bling bling! Kaching!—A glimpse—

Jeff Harrison

The Mortal Enemies of Calculation

Oceanography Fetus,
admit bouquets to the effigy party

Saloon Redefinition,
be a dapper knapsack… dapper knapsacker

Flowerpot Infighting,
only authenticate the forgettable

Mnemonic Pagination,
your bookshelves are frail
rattlesnake them,
rattlesnake them all

Radio-sighting Conundrum,
mechanically bemoan that… wait…
combine Dionysus with hoarding badgers,
then mechanically bemoan that combination

Mark Young

The theory of dyadic rings

A buried UFO slowly
turns my Digital Pen
into a 7-track down-
load of a Wolfmother

album, but this counts
for nothing when it’s
sunny in South London
& the streets are full

of highly trained Re-
naissance musicians
whose white linen suits
& owlish spectacles

add old-world warmth
& charm to a great
place to stop thinking

about digital identity.

 

 

 

storyboard #1

Black & white movies. The March of Time. Backwards. dubesoR. Snow globes down the stairs, the Odessa Steps. Everything intercut, reality / invention. Once again I walk down those ornate baroque corridors, knowing I know nothing of Hiroshima.

Always in black & white. No room for scenic shots. None of those except perhaps as signposts. Otherwise. Film noir.

Color. Occasionally. Kurosawa’s The Ransom. One scene only. In which.

Do I pay the ransom? Do I let the color in?

Mark Russell

Music: Number Five

Some stories are tagged with photos of juveniles,
their animals, their yellow images, Tom and Dick,
and preposterous townsfolk who venerate Canada,
though not during March, nor in meetings
of Gamblers Anonymous, as the workers have said.

So, no more information about the river is necessary.
Regarding its vexed course, nobody is in agreement
except for the existence, somewhere down there,
of the underworld, its dry rats, its vestibules,
the blindfolded walks that guide you to the edge.

Michael S. Hennessey

NO CONTROL

over the speed of sound
our internal monologue or the
rate of attrition we face
the number of footsteps between
your door to mine or
when we’ll meet again

 

 

A SIMPLE FORMALITY

misplaced faith is not enough
to stop the leaking faucets
or reverse past mistakes — your
blushing won’t fade any faster
words come from the chest
and die in midair

 

 

MINUS MINUS

minus the collarbone, a wish
littoral zone lost through repetition
an urgent message lost in
waves of radio static / interference
on the payphone line foretells
an unwelcome visitor’s arrival

 

 

START HERE

there is not enough sleep
or rather a solarized dreamscape
better than the waking world
I anticipate the alarm and
silence it, somewhere keys crash
out of empty pockets

 

 

WHEN THE WAR IS OVER

antennas still bristle the landscape
dogs growl in troubled sleep
at imagined threats — no reason
to jump at every noise
or for bones once broken,
now healed, to ache

 

 

FORTITUDE: A SIGNAL

a disconnection resets the circuit
through timbral shift and ultraviolet
flash — attention spent and spanned
I’ve maintained this vigil for
three weeks — no end approaching
ask me next year

Jenn McCreary

The abyss has its own rewards
for Steve Farmer

I.
For each four-leaf clover
a six-legged frog

For each lickable fury
a feral angel

For each flaming marshmallow
a runaway shopping cart

For each scribbled treasure map
a secret test

For each naked promise
a silkworm intervention

Cellos & snakes at the heart
of every cool mistake

 

 

 

II.
Use this as a compass

Use this for the ritual

Use this for keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or
loss, & chant: pain, begone, I will have no more of thee

Use this bastard wing folded behind your back, your finely tuned
clavicle, your hair as lasso or noose

Use this splitting image, these words (fallen from my mouth), this
door (formerly a window)

Use all our girlhood superstition about scoliosis, hexes, poxes &
penitence

 

 

 

III.
To believe but only sometimes

To unearth a more useful abyss

To seek prophetic messages in the warm glow of yesterday’s shock

To navigate the inevitable underworld with pure conviction

To translate fear into possibility

To change the taste of sleep

 

 

 

IV.
Use quiet awe

Use your tongue, the strongest muscle
in your body

Use coffee, candy, secret stale cigarettes hidden
in the back of the medicine cabinet

Use the weight of your gaze, the curve of your
spine, the return of your voice

Use all of this as protection from hegemony
& cultural appropriation

Use glitter & guile to disguise your despair

 

 

 

V.
For each deathless beauty
a noble failure

For each lesser enchantment
a graceful détente

For each responsive machine
a choreographed catastrophe

For each psychosexual apocalypse
a disruption contingency

For each tedious evil
a sudden deliverance

Delight & delirium in the rubber room
of every season in hell

Thomas Snarsky

proemial relation #1

here are the upcoming
flowers, burgeoning
forth like the capital
letters that autocorrect
keeps putting at the
beginning of these lines

 

 

 

 

Obliquity

As method. As broken
Bread. As thin line. As
Diatribe. As moment.
Scenario. Nightmare-
Free zone. Sordid wish-
Bone. Mild head throne.
Our bilateral love owns
Too many raincoats.

Joel Chace

stupid ducks

 

even they matter  —

string theory is older now  —

her eyes light the room

 

 

 

 

infinite drop kick  —

so unapologetic  —

just one shop open

 

 

 

 

ceremony riff  —

degree of abandonment  —

miraculous road

 

 

 

 

until our murders  —

eight nickels in his sock drawer–

a calling off off

 

 

 

 

 

unseated, for fun  —

drove to the document dump  —

ninety desks in rows

 

 

 

 

 

mourning was let in  —

first off, she ruined each bow  —

busy with their aunts

 

 

 

 

concentrated arms  —

stupid ducks would not frighten  —

odd way to count them

 

Mark Lamoureux

LACHRYMARY OF THE SORROWS

Went with the jobbers
in mayonnaise, rugged
& welding circuits
for skort cutters. Mercury
Cougar mission
to the H.A.M. radio
meetup. Bellerophon
so what; a bauble
in the maw
of a pewter dragon,
putz is not even a madrigal
smoke bomb assistant.
Missal command of
a hard green fake granny
smith, tiny flakes
of rotten texts suspended
in orange Jell-O cichlid
heirloom. A medicine bag
for punks. Forgotten
space capsule filled
with mulch, terracotta
lachrymary for
hens & chickens, succulent,
easy on the eyes. Rococo
raccoon shaman
in the Shakespeare
garden. That’s for forgetting.
Last time I will buy
a ticket for that guy, snakes
don’t grow on trees.

John Lowther

from 555

The phobic rests before the veil and wonders what’s behind it so as to
continue to ignore what he knows not to have seen, which is
nothing.
The bottom line is that the human species has to realize the human body
is really just a cheap suitcase.
It’s like you’re reaching a critical mass.
The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of
civilization.

If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are
the sucker.

The dispossessed of history are not guided by method but by madness.

Eileen Tabios

THE AWAKENING

[1]
I forgot the mysterious C___ who slipped syphilis to Vincent Van Gogh—she was a refugee from something unknown thus only imaginable by us: a world of people with hacked-off hands, thus, no paintings to criticize or admire…. I forgot how to perceive the shift of stars without feeling them fade or fall…. I forgot how to feel the Milky Way expand simply because, upon my waist, you placed your palm…. I forgot Tiziano Vecelli’s kindness—refusing to discriminate between daughters, he gave the illegitimate Emilia the same dowry of 700 ducats bestowed upon the legitimate Lavinia…. I forgot when one of a love-making couple is blindfolded, one is a lover and the other a canvas, page, smoke …. I forgot the alley of your city where I stood as a statue frozen by unrequited longing…. I forgot Auguste Rodin drawing women while they took their “melancholy pleasure” in front of him…. I forgot Jackson Pollock teaching the harmony of feelings in riot…. I forgot Arthur Rimbaud who said the bears are dancing but what we had wanted to do was move the stars to pity…. I forgot Pierre-Auguste Renoir who loved the girls of Les Halles for letting their breasts sing soprano above their bodices…. I forgot Paul Cezanne painting furniture to escape naked women about whom, he felt, “One has to be on the defensive.”

[2]
I forgot the mysterious C___ who slipped syphilis to Vincent Van Gogh—she was a refugee from something unknown thus only imaginable by us: a world of people with hacked-off hands, thus, no paintings to criticize or admire…. I forgot how to feel the Milky Way expand simply because, upon my waist, you placed your palm…. I forgot the sense of “walking upon a cloud”—the “calm” that overcame William Carlos William upon hearing the minister bestow a benediction: “May the peace of God which passeth all understanding be and abide with you now and forever more. Amen”…. I forgot Auguste Rodin drawing women while they took their “melancholy pleasure” in front of him…. I forgot Jackson Pollock teaching the harmony of feelings in riot…. I forgot romancing the stars to deflect the mundane, even pre-torture rendition…. I forgot Pierre-Auguste Renoir who loved the girls of Les Halles for letting their breasts sing soprano above their bodices…. I forgot Degas’ great joy at glimpsing through an open doorway a beautiful an anguished woman at her bath…. I forgot Dr. Williams fell in love with a young negress lying stripped on a dissecting table.

[3]
I forgot Michelangelo on his back servicing a syphilitic Christian— for euphemism, cite him  instead painting the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II…. I forgot Leonardo Da Vinci dissecting criminals who died with hard-ons to demonstrate the penis is not inflated by the retention of wind…. I forgot Tiziano Vecelli’s kindness—refusing to discriminate between daughters, he gave the illegitimate Emilia the same dowry of 700 ducats bestowed upon the legitimate Lavinia…. I forgot Titian’s prowess: he painted nudes with their eyes open to stare back at you as your eyes memorized powdered their flesh…. I forgot the thief (in Li-Young Lee’s favorite haiku) who stopped in the dangerous night to sing to the beauty of the hovering moon…. I forgot romancing the stars to deflect the mundane, even pre-torture rendition…. I forgot Pierre-Auguste Renoir who loved the girls of Les Halles for letting their breasts sing  soprano above their bodices…. I forgot Paul Cezanne painting furniture to escape naked women about whom, he felt, “One has to be on the defensive”…. I forgot Degas’ great joy at glimpsing through an open doorway a beautiful an anguished woman at her bath.

[4]
I forgot Titian’s prowess: he painted nudes with their eyes open to stare back at you as your eyes memorized powdered their flesh…. I forgot the thief (in Li-Young Lee’s favorite haiku) who stopped in the dangerous night to sing to the beauty of the hovering moon…. I forgot Auguste Rodin drawing women while they took their “melancholy pleasure” in front of him…. I forgot mistaking reproductions for what they copy…. I forgot the anguish of knowledge…. I forgot Jackson Pollock teaching the harmony of feelings in riot…. I forgot Arthur Rimbaud who said the bears are dancing but what we had wanted to do was move the stars to pity…. I forgot Paul Cezanne painting furniture to escape naked women about whom, he felt, “One has to be on the defensive”…. I forgot Degas’ great joy at glimpsing through an open doorway a beautiful an anguished woman at her bath.

[5]
I forgot the mysterious C___ who slipped syphilis to Vincent Van Gogh—she was a refugee from something unknown thus only imaginable by us: a world of people with hacked-off hands, thus, no paintings to criticize or admire…. I forgot how to perceive the shift of stars without feeling them fade or fall…. I forgot Michelangelo on his back servicing a syphilitic Christian— for euphemism, cite him instead painting the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II…. I forgot how to feel the Milky Way expand simply because, upon my waist, you placed your palm…. I forgot scientists becoming radical to pursue the ecstasy of Truth…. I forgot Tiziano Vecelli’s kindness—refusing to discriminate between daughters, he gave the illegitimate Emilia the same dowry of 700 ducats bestowed upon the legitimate Lavinia…. I forgot when one of a love-making couple is blindfolded, one is a lover and the other a canvas, page, smoke …. I forgot how to perceive with tenderness…. I forgot the alley of your city where I stood as a statue frozen by unrequited longing…. I forgot Auguste Rodin drawing women while they took their “melancholy pleasure” in front of him.

[6]
I forgot Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni possessed incomparable draftsmanship except as regards breasts, though he was weaned by a daughter and wife of stone masons…. I forgot Michelangelo on his back servicing a syphilitic Christian— for euphemism, cite him instead painting the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II…. I forgot how to feel the Milky Way expand simply because, upon my waist, you placed your palm…. I forgot Leonardo Da Vinci dissecting criminals who died with hard-ons to demonstrate the penis is not inflated by the retention of wind…. I forgot Titian’s prowess: he painted nudes with their eyes open to stare back at you as your eyes memorized powdered their flesh…. I forgot how to perceive with tenderness…. I forgot the alley of your city where I stood as a statue frozen by unrequited longing…. I forgot the sense of “walking upon a cloud”—the “calm” that overcame William Carlos William upon hearing the minister bestow a benediction: “May the peace of God which passeth all understanding be and abide with you now and forever more. Amen”…. I forgot the anguish of knowledge…. I forgot Jackson Pollock teaching the harmony of feelings in riot…. I forgot Pierre-Auguste Renoir who loved the girls of Les Halles for letting their breasts sing soprano above their bodices.

[7]
I forgot how to perceive the shift of stars without feeling them fade or fall…. I forgot Michelangelo on his back servicing a syphilitic Christian— for euphemism, cite him instead painting the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II…. I forgot Leonardo Da Vinci dissecting criminals who died with hard-ons to demonstrate the penis is not inflated by the retention of wind…. I forgot scientists becoming radical to pursue the ecstasy of Truth…. I forgot when one of a love-making couple is blindfolded, one is a lover and the other a canvas, page, smoke …. I forgot the alley of your city where I stood as a statue frozen by unrequited longing…. I forgot the anguish of knowledge…. I forgot romancing the stars to deflect the mundane, even pre-torture rendition…. I forgot Pierre-Auguste Renoir who loved the girls of Les Halles for letting their breasts sing soprano above their bodices…. I forgot—as did everyone else in the universe—the name of Georges Seurat’s mistress: Madeleine Knobloch.

[8]
I forgot how to perceive the shift of stars without feeling them fade or fall…. I forgot Titian’s prowess: he painted nudes with their eyes open to stare back at you as your eyes memorized powdered their flesh…. I forgot when one of a love-making couple is blindfolded, one is a lover and the other a canvas, page, smoke…. I forgot how to perceive with tenderness…. I forgot the sense of “walking upon a cloud”—the “calm” that overcame William Carlos William upon hearing the minister bestow a benediction: “May the peace of God which passeth all understanding be and abide with you now and forever more. Amen”…. I forgot Auguste Rodin drawing women while they took their “melancholy pleasure” in front of him…. I forgot Arthur Rimbaud who said the bears are dancing but what we had wanted to do was move the stars to pity…. I forgot Pierre-Auguste Renoir who loved the girls of Les Halles for letting their breasts sing soprano above their bodices.