http://www.albany.edu/offcourse
 http://offcourse.org
 ISSN 1556-4975

   

Since 1998, a journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays edited by Ricardo Nirenberg.


 

"On Being Awake at Night" by Jac Nelson.

I

When she lived she walked
all night
Though sleep
rolled loose in her limbs’ galleys

Her flaxen head in dream
her slippered feet went scuffing in the sandy cobnut loam

One autumn night she came to in the nut grove
She woke and saw a man under a tree
and died

Busied in your own dream
You didn’t see her

But Wordsworth did
For sleep
which would have thwarted his impurities 
those soiling crimes which e’er a poor man blinks at night sink roots
into his soul

The cleansing sword of sleep for our pleading poet

Never fell

 

II

To whom could he cry but the moon

who never
gave up what Wordsworth desired but
watched him

and followed
him alone
no other
down the path from behind the clouds
leading a chorus of dust

 

III

So Wordsworth killed her off

 

IV

Carson the gnostic on her knees in the kitchen

Douses her mop head in purple stuff
another Wordsworth night

No children sleep
no dogs
no men

No Anne
No Wordsworth
and the purple mop

When you live alone you can do so at night
paint with a mop
or paint a shelf on the blank kitchen wall
with powders
and cram the shelf with palm-sized vials

Trompe l’oeil
fools the eye

Colored glass
fruit glass
ice glass
candy glass

Jolly rancher of the nightkitchen
Anne drives her vials to pasture

 

V

Poets follow painters

Because painters see

 

VI

My teacher says you can go ahead and stare into a flame
that when you close your eyes the flame comes inside with you

She prefers you close your eyes

 

VII

My teacher sleeps at 3 o’clock in the afternoon
winters only
bleached green of the outer world
salted streets and glassed branches
sparrows and plate glass for dinner
brittle bones

Coffee pot steams quietly across the downing light in the office

She sleeps

She wakes after dinner
Catherine Deneuve
clicks off the coffee pot
orange light out

What color in the kitchen tonight?

Oh terrible moon
whose inky contents she never gave up

 


Raised in Minnesota, Jac Nelson lives with her partner in Portland, Oregon, where she translates from Ancient Greek and from French into English. She twice received honorable mention for the Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize, and her work is published or forthcoming in the c_L newsletter, Peaches & Bats, Otoliths, Reed College Creative Review, and frankmatter. She earned her B.A. in Classics and Religion from Reed College.



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