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Photograph by Alexis Rhone Fancher

It’s the start of 2017 on Planet Earth. How’s it feel to be a poet right now?

Awful (it’s my job, not complaining) and awfully important. Not because I am so terribly important–I mean–I’m glad if I write work people find meaningful in some way, but right now, just attempting to feel the sublime moments of aesthetic arrest while coping with my fury and sadness concerning the political situation in America, specifically, the insanely fascistic douche-baggery operating in the White House and majority seats of the Capitol make bearing an authentic and carefree poet spirit through the world challenging, to say the least.

Farmers heft and truckers load crates of lemons onto flatbeds at first light.
The skillet trees stream past,
silhouettes of yellow fruit and shadowed green
like something aquatic. Here I go,
sucked under, again. I love what won’t belong to me
and so sit tight, fingering the wound,
the open sinew, sticky gem pot
in the lap of the matter.

Reasons

By Urvashi Bahuguna

Poem

My mother had a wing that could not be
taken. A fox lived
at the backyard border.
The rain wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t
paddle back to the neighbour’s postal box.
I spent so much time looking at the snow, I
saw something beyond the cold.
My grandfather helped my grandmother’s
birds escape.
My mother had one good
wing and one made of sadness.

In all those years having never really spoken it
except in classrooms and once or twice
in Spain as a young woman trying to impress
her advisors or of course
having spoken it in pleasantries
between friends—muy bien gracias y tu
who don’t speak Spanish
like she does but could, she thinks of all those years
having never dreamt in Spanish either
and how those dreams would have played
out had she been able to talk
to men in a language
that would’ve been foreign to them

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Why did you choose the title “Marys of the Sea?”

Well, I love the ocean. It is vast and dangerous and calming and tumultuous—it is both familiar yet mysterious. Since the book itself is a retelling of my own experiences as a sexual assault survivor, of someone who had an abortion (as a result of the assault), I used the ocean as a metaphorical, and sometimes, physical landscape to the book.

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Antelopes run toward in armored florescence
—their breath the shape of faces in windowglass.
You sit & watch starlings make nests.

At one time, humans crawled on hearts greased silver
—left a trail dazzling daughters unborn, surrendering
miles. Killing them with perennials in curried fire.

Wolves follow us through subway cars, their obsession
propels them past honey bones stretched to oblivion;
bunches of lines shaped in half-circles, reaching out for us.

Ten paces away, water dragons devour emeralds
from the hands of children. Their teeth gnash
skin—blood puddles stretch into slanted metal walls.

Above ground, a paper moon wanes west—
making my slender waist more slender: empty nest.

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Have you ever done a self-interview before?

Isn’t that what writing is?

 

Are you going to answer every question with another question?

Is that a problem?

 

Do you write every day?

I read more than I write.

 

What are you reading right now?

I’m in the middle of Charles Martin’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and The Education of Henry Adams.

is not a man being swallowed by a fish
with eyes like eight point throwing stars
it’s a man being swallowed by a war
a man being taken into the mouth of a woman
or being swallowed by his work

it’s a man traveling far inside a book
a man being swallowed up in smoke
he swallows the smoke, that blends around him like a thought
it’s a man being swallowed by a sound
he shapes it so he lives inside a song

Hi, Karen. Thanks for taking time to talk to TNB today.

My Pleasure. This is way more fun than what I usually do while my kids are at school.

A grocery store is a good place to hide. Do not underestimate your own resourcefulness, your strength. Comfort one another trapped, away from loved ones, but do not fear your thirst. Work together to see babies again or to avenge their deaths. If the zombies find you, bash their slack-mouthed heads against linoleum tile with five-gallon bottles of Tide, gouge the brain with beer bottles and broom handles. Barricade! Barricade! Barricade! with fifty-pound bags of dog food. Do not use sides of beef obviously or shopping carts which roll. Unfurl and plaster aluminum foil over windows until it’s gone. In a pinch, find the picnic supplies and un-fold all the paper tablecloths. Hang them over the long windows in double layers with packing tape from the stationery aisle. If you make it through the night, avoid using the P.A. to rally those left among you, as zombies have keen hearing. Instead, a crude telephone, something like you and your cousin devised, when you were kids, decades ago and far away from the city, with empty soup cans and long, long string and bunkers of unfathomable time.

by-chelsea-bieker

Good Afternoon!

Good Afternoon! Writing to you from Miami—I’m in my hotel lobby. There is a beautiful strange wood ceiling, incense burning, and cacti. And everyone is walking through in bathing suits.

Some of the elements of life
will survive microbial disaster,
will refuse to recognize us,
will come up to the newspapers
and affect a response.

Descartes found himself in the bright blue
strong wind of the northern climate. There,
the erratic queen demanded he give her philosophy
at five in the morning and, calling in a cold,
he died.

 

All your books are unique in the sense that you wrote them in English and French. Can you tell us about your process?

French is my mother tongue but English became the dominant language when I moved to the United States. Actually it took over even before, when I wrote my thesis on Henry James for my Masters at the Sorbonne. I was already an anglophile, having lived and studied in England, and I loved writing in English. So I wrote my first book in English. It was my first publisher’s idea that I present it as a bilingual collection. This turned out to be a brilliant idea because the books become a dance between languages.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea 

                                                                   ―E.E. Cummings

The angel who smells of my childhood
My mother, piano and oboe
Whose face the icon reflects
Auburn hair like a Modigliani
Eyes the color of rain

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Where are you now?

In my apartment in New York City. Eating mac n’ cheese. I just got back from having a few beers with an old friend, TJ.