Where Does This Tenderness Come From?
I can’t decide anymore about my state. Victoria will see me
tomorrow for a price. I don’t have love anymore, just a twisted spine,
a washed dark sky that seems to trust we won’t crush its maps.
It’s Earth day and there are three plastic containers in my trash.
I used to care. Would present baristas with my own pastry cloth.
Tsvetavae asked where tenderness comes from, my soft belly
softens still under my dress. Fifth Avenue is empty but for those
locked into their phones, and I wonder what sleeping state
I’ve locked myself into, that I can’t be even feet from my phone
in bed, that it sits next to my water, that I drink the water, stare
at the world through gossipy neon. I want everyone to adore me
foolish. We live in the same world as the term homo sacer. Still. I want
a waist the length of a single brick, and I want to hurl me up, past
ceiling, dink me against navigational satellites. Then what.
Sheila Callaghan is blowing my mind right now. Theater is important
because it presumes that language can be othered still, performed
for public consumption, that dialog is multiple bodies, flensed politics.
Ibsen can end his play with the words The sun on apoplectic repeat
and we know this means suicide. What did poetry ever do to be so oblique.
The sun the sun the sun. I like hotels I like hotels I like hotels.
Do you remember the deer, the snow, anal without lube. I want
to know what state is yours. We seem to want to know this
about one another. You can transform your notion of disease,
like Ibsen, into anything. Modernism is a public dance of information
and it is no dance at all for it needs no body to perform in.
Every time I need your closeness, deer leak from the guardrail.
I guess it’s too late to live on the farm.
Because I have stood at the hill of some nature
and found nature is nothing but careful buzzing.
Because nature lays itself under rope and axe
so stupidly as to be a republic of stupid.
Whereas my nature bleeds irregularly, brews
coffee to be closer to the neck of morning unnecessarily.
I want the word necessary to share a root
with nectar, because I guess it is too late
or that consanguinity of purpose. Nek-
is death, -tar to overcome. Because humans believe
a careful buzzing can make men eternal.
I have known eternal men, they die so soon.
I’m losing touch of the farm, as the farm
is an extension of a loss I’ve never known to lose.
And Virgil raised bees, you see. I’ve known
one lake my whole life and it came with a legend.
Two tribes, a boy, a girl, and a center in the lake.
In the center of the lake is a hole, it sucks stuff down
pulls it dead through a tunnel and dead into the Sound.
I guess it’s too late to live there too. The time is 8:02.
Two vertices, morning and evening, make up
gerunds, and I never think of this, how time is
subject, complement, and object of our sentence here.
Our sentence is an act of mortal guesswork. See, I touch
one tender breast and then the other to test
how I’m surviving this. Fibrous wires and nets
where a future cancer may one day be.
Like a wife tucked neatly into the gerunds.
When we say we are too late, a silk itch issues
at the base of our necks. I do understand this. I do not.
I do not have tenure. Nor adjuncture. My office
shivers in the distance and I am not sure of my republic,
my proletariat space where the wrong spigot drips.
Since I’m here I should talk about resistance. I bite
into a banana, we become a commodity. The time is 8:05.
It is another day from when I first sat down.
Clarice Lispector placed her hand on a phonograph,
described it as the last substratum of reality’s realm.
I lack electricity because my body is late. To be late
resists work perfectly in favor of jagged want.
The last substratum is not music. I hover my hand
over the radiator. I hear so much talk. Tweets about
last night’s reading. Have you seen her waist
have you seen her overdone makeup. This is veering
into a different poem, but it is too late I guess
to see the work of bodies as counter to the work
of poets. Because nature didn’t heave itself up
for any fight. Because the chickens crush
against themselves in Brooklyn warehouses.
When should I write this poem, I say so slowly
to the radiator, the substratum. I say it so slowly.
It breathes. Its breath is hot and continuous.
Natalie Eilbert is the author of the debut collection, Swan Feast, which will republish with Bloof Books in late 2015. She is also the author of two chapbooks, Conversation with the Stone Wife (Bloof Books, 2014) and And I Shall Again Be Virtuous. (Big Lucks Books, 2014). Her poems and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from The New Yorker, Electric Gurlesque Anthology, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, Sink Review, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY, where she is the founding editor of The Atlas Review/TAR Press.