Maid as Muse

When Harreytte Mullen, at Small Press Traffic, recently gave a talk about the challenges and trauma of exploring her own genealogy, Kevin Killian asked Harryette if she knew about Aífe Murray's Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson's Life and Language. He recommended it. Intrigued, I got the book from the San Francisco Public Library, and then was unable to put it down! What a fabulous read.

Murray's book begins with a quote from Ralph Ellison's Going to the Territory:

Having had no adequate models to guide us [as Americans] in establishing what we told ourselves was to be a classless society, it has often been difficult for us to place people and events in proper perspective of national importance. So it is well that we keep in mind that fact that not all of American history is recorded. In some ways we are fortunate that it isn't, for if it were, we might become so chagrined by the discrepancies which exist between our democratic ideals and our social reality that we would soon lose heart. Perhaps this is why we possess two basic versions of American history: one which is written and as neatly stylized as ancient myth and the unwritten as chaotic and full of contradictions, changes of pace and surprises as life itself....Surely there must be some self-descriptive magic in this, for in spite of what is left out of our recorded history, our unwritten history looms as its obscure alter ego, and although repressed from our general knowledge of ourselves, it is always active in the shaping of events.

Murray's Maid as Muse undertakes to explore some of this unwritten history. Wondering "who made Emily's prolific writing life possible" (3), Murray goes on a scholar and writer's journey to explore why, "despite references in Emily's letters [to servants]and scholar Jay Leyda's tribute to them, the Dickinsons' servants were all but ignored in biographies and critical works" (4). Murray discovers that,

when the family employed a maid, Emily wrote more. There was a sharp upswing in her creative production after the long-term permanent maid, Margaret O'Brien, was hired in 1856. For the next nine years the poet steadily turned out some one hundred to three hundred poems a year. With Margaret O'Brien's departure, Emily's output dropped to ten poems the next year. Manuscript scholars thought her great poetic 'drive was spent.' I determined that the numbers stayed similarly low for three and a half years of intermittent maids until Margaret Maher was wooed to the household in 1869. For the rest of her life with the second Margaret (whom the family took to calling "Maggie") until her final illness in 1884, Emily steadily averaged about seventy-five poems and letters per year. Having a permanent maid created opportunity that enabled Emily to identify herself as poet (10).

But Murray's book posits more than this assertion as she seeks to locate Dickinson and her work and the work and lives of the servants with whom she came into contact in their specific social context. Murray tells how two prominent Amherst families--the Boltwoods and the Dickinsons--"staged a many-month tug-of-war over [Maggie Maher's] services" (29); how it was Maggie that Emily was closest too; how it was in Maggie's trunk that Dickinson stored her fascicles, her bundles of finished poems; how Maggie was instructed to and then refused to burn Emily's poetry at Dickinson's death; how the various versions of English that Emily would have heard, including African American vernacular English and the Hiberno-English of Irish immigrants impacted and shaped Dickinson's linguistic experiments.

While there were Native and African American people working in and around Amherst and the Dickinson Homestead, Murray posits that it is the influence and intimate familiarity with her Irish immigrant servants, particularly the maid, Margaret Maher, and long-time Dickinson familiar Tom Kelley (who worked for the Dickinsons for many years and was the chief pallbearer, one of six Irish Catholic immigrant laborers Dickinson requested to carry her coffin at her funeral) that seems to have most affected Dickinson (though Murray also traces the influence on ED of African American speech patterns). Careful to attend to the lives of these individuals (by having done exhaustive library, archival, and in-person sleuthing with descendants and town historians) and mindful of the complexity of Dickinson's shifting prejudices and racism, Murray also provides a rich and engaging examination of a variety of individuals while also revealing the formidable challenges faced by those engaged in various forms of service in 19th-Century New England.

Murray writes:

How did Emily trade on skittishness about her place in the hierarchy to slip in and out of social view or resist poetic or linguistic categories and categorization? To leap boundaries even as she constructed them--to let the Kelleys or Matthews in but keep the "new Black man" (JL 721) out--to refuse adherences to form and genre (which, as composer Gil Evans once pointed out, is a 'merchandiser's problem, not mine') was part of her process. She opened herself to eclectic influences, crisscrossed boundaries, used her privilege to control and challenge as much as she parlayed the means and authority achieved in one artistic medium to another. It should not surprise readers that her politics were conservative but her poetics were not; that she disdained the African American gardener in the 1880s but wrote stunning antislavery verse in the 1860s. She was a figure of her time and class. That she opened herself, indeed, was changed by her close association with poor people working with and around her, is not surprising. She didn't shed her privilege but wore it comfortably.

Where does "the servant's hand" come in? Where does it get pushed away? What is to be made of the fact that Margaret Maher preserved the work in her trunk or saved the poems destined for destruction? As people investigating artistic motivation and process look around the writer's room, they are not just communing with the author and the view from the windowpane over the writing table. There was a woman leaning over the grate and some chance remarks that seeded an idea for a poem. All those quotations in the poems suggest engagement, ongoing conversations, and inspiration from the social world around her as much as the written world she inhabited. That 'social text,' that fleshy real world was inhabited by maids, laundry workers, seamstresses, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, basket weavers, laborers, stablemen--all of whom Emily knew by name. The poet may have traded on stereotypes (what Folsom and Price call vortex words) that telegraphed charged images to her readers. What's to be made of Emily's relationships to the people behind these stereotypes? This was the social context of her art-making, the whole roster of people who make the work possible and 'fuel the fantasy of independence. Ironically, it is this very support that allows the practice of art making to appear as the ultimate expression of individual freedom.

Emily's language was affected by Mrs. Mack's and certainly by that of other servants with whom she regularly spoke or listened to intently. The queen of mimicry took an improvisational page from her servants' books. Even her genius for ambiguity could have found influence among servants for whom the art of evasion and ambiguity were part survival strategy and, at least in the case of the Irish, part of their legal tradition. Genius is believed to be solitary. What would it mean to rethink a body of work--in this case reread poems for class and race--in light of the way Emily's daily life was shared with the working poor of the town?


The intimacy of small-town life, its ebbs and flows, dramas and controversies, as well as the intimacy of domestic service, meant that Emily Dickinson was interwoven with Amherst's poor white Yankee community, the entwined Native and African American one, and enclaves of Irish and English immigrants. In the brief glimpses offered, the men and women who spent some of their working lives in and around the Dickinson family are at least partially restored to the written narrative. Whatever their roles at the Homestead and their closeness to the poet, the maids and laborers come from the silent wings until it is so crowded onstage that we wondered why we hadn't seen them all along(215-218).

While I found myself sometimes wishing Murray would have stopped and spent additional time and space reading more closely, in light of the various linguistic influences she enumerates, some of Dickinson's poems, I can't complain. This doesn't seem to be the main goal of the book. Rather, it provides a speculative, complex, carefully researched and richly imagined tapestry of intertwined lives and the wild poetry these lives made possible.

I am alive-- because
I am not in a Room--
The Parlor--commonly--it is--
So Visitors may come--
(FP 605)


One need not be a Chamber--to be Haunted--
One need not be a House--
The Brain has Corridors--surpassing
Material Place--

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting--
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a'chase--
Than Unarmed, one's a'self encounter--
In lonesome Place--

Ourself behind ourself, concealed--
Should Startle most--
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The Body--borrows a Revolver--
He bolts the Door--
O'erlooking a superior spectre--
Or More--


Self & The Poem: Lee Hickman to Todd Baron

Todd Baron 2008

Lee Hickman, undated photo by Rod Bradley

Below is an excerpt from a 1984 letter from Lee Hickman to Todd Baron. Baron was living in San Francisco and attending New College while Hickman was in Southern California. The two maintained an ongoing correspondence. Todd read this excerpt at the recent Tribute to Leland Hickman on the occasion of Nightboat Books' publication of Tiresias. You can read about that HERE. When Todd read from Hickman's letter I was struck by Hickman's engagement with the question/problem of the "self" in poetry.It seems appropriate that this excerpt of correspondence should follow the post on Ammiel Alcalay and his argument for reading, rereading and reinterpreting the many versions of "I" and "selves" in the poem.

As to the subject of the “self” in art. What I have written is of course autobiographical, I assume anyone can see that. It is like an autobiography, but since it is a poem, and always remains one, it is a strange form, requesting the reader to respond to it as autobiography at the same time as the reader is requested to question the meaning of the concept of self and the concept of self-writing; the self itself viewed as a kind of text open to transgression, distortion, emendation, fictionalization of our convenient fiction of the self. This is reflexive action by the poem itself, and I assume anyone knows that who reads it. I also assume that any problem it causes comes partly from not having studied the whole book closely and partly from presuppositions about the question of self, as though anyone has a final say on this philosophical and perennial question. In my work so far, I have—in part—and probably a great part—presented my experience of textualizing my experience of textualizing my experience, including the experience of self-interpretation (those ambiguous parameters we are so inconveniently stuck with). The self is indescribable, containing its own contradictions, and unpredictable, yet we live as though those selves are more than fictions: the poem recognizes all this. However, the Leland of the poem is the Leland of the poem, for the poem’s Leland is the will of the poem, and Leland’s poem, like Leland’s self, is not his own. Not his own to interpret, to keep, to will, to kill, to destroy, to debase, to exalt, or to write about. Dynamic & never static, the self is an interpretation requiring continuous reinterpretation and multi-interpretation in order to continue; this is as much to say it does not exist as a closed & bounded entity—and yet—and yet—


Yes, art is a criticism of society. Yes, self, whatever it is, is definitely in concert with community, and vice versa. But a self in conflict with itself is in conflict with its community, and presentation of the results of that ongoing conflict in works of art is decidedly a criticism of society. All that needs to be determined is whether or not the particular self is lying. Such a work must question its truth or its falsity—i.e., it must be tiresian, i.e, it must be concerned with true interpretation just as was that soothsayer—such a work must question its origins—i.e., is the self a social construct (and if the social construct in question is a conflicted one, is society responsible? And if so, in what way? And what kind of self can a responsible society hope to create?), or is it a psychological construct only (i.e., something to do with the supposed nature of psyche only), or is it a metaphysical and religious given (i.e., is a deity responsible?). My work constantly questions itself on these matters—I don’t see how it could have been missed by anyone truly concerned to read it truly. That is why I am always so bewildered by criticisms that my poem is merely “confessional” or merely “autobiographical” or merely an exaltation and/or debasement of self by itself. I come out of the Stanislavsky method, Todd, that is why I am concerned with truth and with questions of self, and as a poet it is why I feel it necessary that a reader know just who this “poet” thinks he was and is being. Ergo, my work stoops to tell a little story about a six year old American boy growing into a man and into an old man; but the story is only part of the poem. This of course brings up the question of narrative, but let’s leave that aside for now; it’s all so tiring. (They’re essentially the same question.)


You talk of “pure charge.” Pure charge is the meaning. In a poem, there is no other saying. What is said and how charged it is said are the same thing. As in life, the generosity and intensity of your love is that love, there is no separating them from it. A poem is not an abstraction. It is a product of the body. It is not the fingerprint. It is the fingertip. No poem goes beyond meaning. Meaning is the body. Yr body.

Todd Baron graduated from New College (studying under Robert Duncan, Michael Palmer, Diane Di Prima, et.al) in 1989 with an MA in Poetics. As Yet, his tenth book, will be published by Chax Press this year. He co founded Littoral Books (now defunct) at the utmost urging of Lee Hickman in 1990.

many thanks to todd baron for providing this excerpt.


Poetry is a Reading of the World: Ammiel Alcalay, Part Two

Ammiel Alcalay: Part Two

Excerpts from Alcalay's "Local Politics: The Background as Foreward" from his book Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays 1982-1999 publshed by City Lights Books:

"...my experience in presenting unknown or marginalized literatures has taught me that an extremely wide net needs to be cast in order to create the conditions through which such work can find a productive space in Amercian culture, a place where poets and writers can get to it and begin relating to distinctly new forms, idioms, sensibilities and experiences as part of their own vocabulary. Casting such a net has meant turning into a kind of full-service bureau through which I could both help create the conditions for reception of works and then carry those works over in a variety of ways. Within these different roles, my work has spanned a range of cultural, political, and historical concerns. As someone barely born here (in larger historical/chronological terms), much of my work has involved the process of both finding and losing my "self" within the gaps I find in American discourse, gaps primarily having to do with either the lack or the suppression of any tangible global political and historical space or consciousness, however these end up getting defined.

Part of the difficulty of working through such a situation is that I feel as if I have embarked upon an enormous journey only to come back to where I started from: in my case, a distinctly American language and American idiom, only to wonder what happened along the way........

Two crucial geographical areas and states of mind on this map have been the Middle East and the Balkans; involvement in these areas has meant confronting deep pockets of resistance to change of any kind, in both expected and unexpected places.....

Poetry, and language perceived or filtered through the sensibility of poetry's value, still resists the marketplace, no matter how hard some may try. As Jack Spicer wrote: 'A poet is a time mechanic not an embalmer....Objects, words must be lead across time not preserved against it...' The connection between words and world, as well as the consequences of such connections, is something we must never lose sight of; as Adonis, one of this century's greatest poets has written:'The writing of poetry is a reading of the world and the things in it, a reading of things charged with words, and of words tied to things....Language, viewed from this perspective, is not a tool for communicating a detached meaning. It is meaning itself because it is thought. Indeed, it precedes thought and is succeeded by knowledge....Poetry, according to this definition, is more than a means or a tool, like a technology; it is, rather, like language itself, an innate quality. It is not a stage in the history of human consciousness but a constituent of this consciousness' (xii-xv).


Charming Hostess and Ammiel Alcalay at Small Press Traffic

9 April 2010: Friday night. Rushed from sweaty yoga to pick up daughter, bring her home, swallow food (hello family), and then arrive at Timken Hall at California College of the Arts just in time for Charming Hostess and Ammiel Alcalay. I knew nothing about Charming Hostess and had no idea what to expect. This three person ensemble blew the audience away. Charming Hostess consists of the voices of Jewlia Eisenberg (who also plays harmonium)and Cynthia Taylor, with percussion by Michael (whose last name I didn't quite get and isn't listed on their web site. Sorry Michael!) Charming Hostess performed pieces from Bosnian writer Semezdin Mehmedinović's Sarajevo Blues translated by Ammiel Alcalay and a variety of other work, including a song about gender compliance sung in the Judeo-Spanish language Ladino. They then brought the movingly discrepant girl-group sound to the song "Death is a Job." You can hear a recording of this HERE. Powerful and good stuff. Look for them this summer at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

After a short intermission, Ammiel Alcalay took the stage. Alcalay has been reading in the Bay Area for the last two weeks, with appearances at Mills College and the Poetry Center. On Friday night, Alcalay began by referencing the introduction for him that CA Conrad wrote and Samantha Giles had just read. Conrad's introduction revisited the incendiary American Thinker 2005 article, "Poetry, Terror and Political Narcissism" in which author Alyssa Lappen writes about Alcalay's work and his criticism of the U.S. and Israel, making the claim that Alacalay is pro-Palestinian and therefore, implicitly, pro-terror and a political narcissist! I think it was Conrad in his intro or either Alcalay himself who suggested that in some ways the American Thinker article represented one of the few public engagements with his work. Because Alcalay's writing is overtly political,contestatory, and wide ranging in its hybrid and multiple forms from journalism, academic criticism, poetry, prose, and translation, Alcalay feels as if his work is in a critical vacuum. People, particularly on the East Coast, according to Alcalay, see his various engagements, his multiple points of attack, as separate endeavors. Alcalay said that on the West Coast, people seem to take a more integrated approach to his body of work.

Alcalay read from several of his books, including Scrap Metal and from the warring factions. Alcalay said that "a lot of my work is a response to my work," and he advocated that writers read critically their own body of work. Alcalay's new book, Islanders, contains writing from thirty years ago. This intervention in his own work proves to be a rich and engaging strategy for re-thinking, re-visioning and re-interpreting one writer's interaction with a complicated and fraught world. Alcalay makes an example of himself, and spoke about historicizing the many versions of "I" and "self" that he is, and has been. Here's a sampling of some of his work. These pieces are from the warring factions. * indicates a page break.

Miró is in The Museum of Modern Art.

Miró is in Sarajevo.

A famous playwright is on stage at Symphony Space and over the air on NPR.

The announcer calls me twice during a break to find
out how to pronounce the name Izeta.

Izeta is Miró's wife.

They have a dog.

It is December 1st, 1993.


Certain people say we should always go back to nature.
I notice they never say we should go forward to nature.
It seems to me they are more concerned that we should
go back, than about nature. If the models we use are the
apparitions seen in a dream or the recollection of our
prehistoric past, is this less a part of the nature or realism
than a cow in a field? I think not.

The role of the artist has always been that of image maker.
Different times require different images.

Today, when our aspirations have been reduced to a desperate
attempt to escape from evil, and times are out of joint,
our obsessive, subterranean and pictographic images are
the expression of the neurosis which is reality. To my mind
certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all,
on the contrary, it is the realism of our time.


Adolph Gottlieb


no pyramids dot the skyline

in the seats of power of

this crumbling empire


the ghosts of industry eat
this old half city bridge
of nevermore again
eat Glamoć and
eat these years
(pg s 3-7)

suddenly like shapes of living stone clothed in the light of
dreams I tore the veil the shrouds which wrap the world
the frost of death the flood of tyranny a paradise of flowers
within which the poor heart loves to keep the earnings
of its toil a common home stains of inevitable crime
pride build upon oblivion to rule the ages that survive
our remains violence and wrong an unreturning stream
the grief of many graves snow and rain on lifeless things
this is not faith or law opinion more frail or life poisoned
in its wells that delights in ruin as endless armies wind
in sad procession the earth springs like an eagle even
as the winds of autumn scatter gold in the dying flame
we learned to steep the bread of slavery in tears of woe
these faded eyes have survived a ruin wide and deep
which can no longer borrow from chance or change
what will come within the homeless future that gold
should lose its power and thrones their glory that love
which none may bind be free to fill the world like light
whose will has power when all beside is gone faint accents
far and lost to sense of outward things some word which
none here can gather yet the world has seen a type of peace
some sweet and moving scene returning to feed on us
as worms devour those years come and gone like the ship
which bears me in this the winter of the world (89).

Alcalay's bio from the Small Press Traffic blog here:

Poet, essayist, translator, and editor, Ammiel Alcalay returns to San Francisco to read from his new book --and first published novel-- ISLANDERS (City Lights Books, 2010) and to talk with the audience about the concerns of his work as writer, educator, and literary activist.

Born and raised in Boston, is a first-generation American, son of Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Serbia to the US after the second World War, Alcalay teaches at Queens College, New York, and at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he directs Lost & Found: the CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.

He is the author of *After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture* (U. Minnesota), and *Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays: 1982-1999* (City Lights). He is also the editor and translator of *Keys to the Garden*, an anthology of new Israeli writing, Semezdin Mehmedinovic's *Sarajevo Blues* and *Nine Alexandrias*, and *Outcast* by Shimon Ballas (all published by City Lights).

About Charming Hostess, again, courtesy of Small Press Traffic:

Charming Hostess is a whirl of eerie harmony, hot rhythm and radical braininess. Our music explores the intersection of text and the sounding body-- complex ideas expressed physically, based on voice and vocal percussion, handclaps and heartbeats, sex-breath and silence. Explore their awesomeness at their website.


Jacket Magazine on Bob Perelman

Check out Jacket Magazine's Special Feature on Bob Perelman. Many good articles, including Rob Halpern's piece "Restoring China," which uncovers the local and contextual community that Frederic Jameson's subsequent reading erased.

Read it here.


Simone White's House Envy of All the World

Here are several poems from Simone White's House Envy of All the World, (I love that title!) recently out from Factory School's Heretical Texts, February 2010.

Simone takes apart place, race, desire, relation, gender, the public and private as they intersect with history and the individual.

it is probably a crime to stand on the corner
just after dawn in a red sweatshirt
in Bedford-Stuyvesant

it is probably a crime
to say

what if song
is poison to me? (from "Nigger Rig" 27-28)


Here's what Small Press Distribution has to say about Simone's book:

Is all black desire corrupt? If American aspiration is linked to the desire to have whiteness, be male and make money, what, now, can a decent person want? Family, death, power, Poetry and blackness--each is implicated in a general failure of perfection and subjected to furious lyric rethinking in Simone White's work; a poetry of ideas where "the whole limbic system [becomes] an event," "decorous" and profane, precise and bewildered.

Check it out. You can buy House Envy at SPD here.

If you will be in Philly on Saturday,April 10th, you can hear Simone read with Allison Cobb, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Kate Schapira and CA Conrad & Frank Sherlock at 8pm at the University of the Arts, Terra Hall Broad & Walnut, 7th Floor,Connelly Auditorium.

If therefore ye be loath to dishearten utterly and discontent, not the mercenary crew of false pretenders to learning, but the free and ingenuous sort of such as evidently were born to study, and love learning for itself, not for lucre or any other end but the service of God and truth, and perhaps the lasting fame and perpetuity of praise which God and men have consented shall be the reward of those whose published labors advance the good of mankind; then know that, so far as to distrust the judgment and honesty of one who hath but a common repute in learning, and never yet offended, as not to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor and examiner, lest he should drop a schism or something of corruption, is the greatest displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him.---John Milton, Areopagitica

Drop a Schism

Every two seconds, a paparazzo
punches Bernard Madoff in the chest;
and yet he advances. I like his nice spectacles;
I like his white hair and blue hat.

Each disgraced bourgeois in blue
whose belly drags the bottom,
scratched bloody,
beat up by photographers,

all his money taken away,
whose children hold his hand at the perp walk,
Rachel Maddow smirking,
I love a little,

though I want to be reading an old biography of Lincoln,
eating barbecue chips.

Athletic fat bourgeois
grown stinking rich, I want you to know I know
it is the liberty of which we are afraid
gone crazy in your head.

We want to be reading an old biography of Lincoln,
eating barbecue chips. Inexplicably,
we would kick a baby to be near you
or give our baby to your hedge fund

to invest, educate or employ.
Our swelling knees upbraid the center lie,
O blessed avarice
of egg blue final December.

Someone said: "My life had its significance
and its only deep significance because it was part of a Problem;
...the central problem of the greatest of the world's democracies
and so the Problem of the future world." (1)

"Perhaps his needs turned out to be exceptional,
but his existence was exceptional.
Between 1850 and 1900
nearly everyone's existence was exceptional." (2)

After this, who will venture
withdrawal or meditation? Habibi,
take your rest on the downswung
arch globe of my century, for you will never eat

another hot dog. Your mother will not cook it
nor the president of Harvard College
lead the change we have internalized,

My life had its significance,
notably grim
refutations of crossing the Bronx
some winter afternoon in massive storm,

vague pain in the backside.
Take the wheel, then. Drive us to Connecticut.
I cannot take you through it
slow or fast. The icy liberty

of which we are afraid
percussed interpret curtain
rune glaze'drift

I do not know how I can live
with all these baffled dead
flapping and hooting in the thoroughfare
when some little girl on the longboard makes me cry.

I've got fifty dollars,
which is nothing to be ashamed of.

Sometimes I want to be a suspect,
then think better of it,
like a woman in Whistler's mind
thinking of Whistler seeing her seeing him--

I make a ghastly caryatid
for all this clicking power.
Things drop down on me while I'm sleeping:
iTunes receipts and promises

to do it in the morning.
I do not know how I can live
with just my 'kimbo'd arm to shield me
from the something of corruption in my midst.

(1) W.E.B. DuBois, "Apology," Dusk of Dawn
(2) Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams


...at my end was nothing, no one between me and the black room of the world. ---Jamaica Kincaid

Black Room

I hate an unpacified black room,
and next to that, the imbecile who meets them in the night--
dark things alive in dark places.

Un illuminated core of the world
where dark things whole as smoke
whispered down to nothing in the wind of evil

go weighted down by the killed
void and intention joined in the eye,
black cats rudely crouching in dark corners (33).


Brick in a Bag

he would say that bastard so-and-so
i HATE bilked me out of a million dollars

that was being alive more alive
than oatpaste
offered me as life
repeatedly he forgot who he was talking to

and took back everything
(i should act a little stupid

improve my prospects)
offense not rising

to the level of conspiracy extortion or fraud crucial action of the
inside game
was always moving its nature fleeting

and American
beginning always in a park in Philadelphia

a people without history
walks his tiny daughter

into the Pines and Chestnuts
purporting to straighten the town

since the eighteenth century
what was he even doing there?

i said he had no HISTORY
the identities and roles of his confederates

their places of operation as yet unknown
blank space would grow behind my skin

it tightened around me
WHITE called a brick in a bag (53).