Jennifer Bartlett

THE UNBROKEN LINE

for lee bartlett

[i]

 

in the desert sky
stars and stars and stars

I imagine how we might
go on forever
a black mass, fluttering

the crippling trees bowed
toward the bending house

a spring snow is merely to be expected

 

 

 

 

prejudice is merely the body’s algorithm
a way to see and sort
often the pattern is flawed

you could almost miss it
the silence amongst the reeds
a curtain shut against cadences

the train draws its pattern through the country

how people and birds
struggle and thrive
here

finally, the trees unfold
they are their own lyric, their own gentle unfolding

how could I be bored here

through the swamp an endless journey
large birds settle in the sludge

egrets, swans, ducks, cormorants

their language is a
a language written through light

something that floats and disperses in radiation

 

 

 

 

all living things need a cover

how about the tent of my fluffy pink sweater

how about the ocean

man is so fond of water
a lyric to save the sea

a garden of rocks, silence

I will do anything to escape this canvassing for boats

 

 

 

 

how do I feel?
            and now?
            and now?
now?
how will I make it through this world?

the body, the voice, the delirious movement, a wayward narrative

arranged according to the laws of chance

I wanted to come back for the census
I wanted to count

 

 

 

 

how to pull the arc of my dying

across the page

how to tell the city (birds) to be quiet
and the sky and

this sky

and buildings (building)
all around thrusting
the nest of the city upward

the world (seemingly) holds enough
for all of us

 

 

 

 

this is the way I see it

she wanted to escape

even if this meant leaving the good
even if her language and loves were a collateral damage

it was so crucial to find a second life

to forget the body’s sorrow

 

 

 

 

[ii]

 

looking through  california poem
for words to steal

o eleni o eleni
            that’s it

do you remember when we met
how we swam through air

we are mothers now
the language of the secondary

 

 

 

 

the expanse of my body

my crippled self
how I wish I might be the ocean

all that summer we made paper
beneath the ghost library

the light filtering in the
basement window splaying

on the children’s abandoned artwork
making and making with abandon

our hands knee deep in

 

 

 

 

[iii]

 

says

winds may exist

by this logic
they may also not exist

as we move through this desert
wearing the groove of

our conversation/our love
into the road

we may exist or not exist

this existing is irrelevant
or not

 

 

 

 

- - - - - -

Jennifer Bartlett was a 2005 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow. Her collections include Derivative of the Moving Image (UNM Press 2007), (a) lullaby without any music (Chax forthcoming), and Anti-Autobiography: A Chapbook Designed by Andrea Baker (Saint Eliizabeth Street/Youth-in-Asia Press 2011). She lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with the writer Jim Stewart, their son, Jeffrey, two cats and two pugs.

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