Slant

HEAL HER

MERCURY COMBUST THE SUN. Photo: Ariana Reines.

Does all evil emanate from a single source?

And do the hundred thousand elaborations of bad

Over which puritans and pundits fight it out on the crust

Of the earth correlate to the lack of spiritual and political

Foundation that would make it easy to see the Marxist reality

That the corporate and billionaire class is what’s really got to go?

That my racism and yours, our failure to love, are masquerading

As things that’re wrong with you & me when we’re just walking symptoms

Of the structural reality into which trees, poems, tears & miracles

Introduce a rending, streaming, higher truth, a better flow, the holy sheen of life...

And the matter of what is in our hearts and my deep

Desire to change, ultimately, and the people I show up for

And the causes I serve is personal, a matter I won’t hector

You to give me credit for? I’m still not a good enough writer.

The personal is an old-fashioned fantasy.  Like certain magazine

Feelings it does still hold sway over me….

I’m just trying to put my guts

Back in my body cos they’re spilling out. I’m just trying

To shove my brains back in my head and remind them that they’re MINE

Too much evil hath made public discourse stupid and boring

Too much binary thinking and even the UFO-heads and channelers

Are all saying versions of the same thing

Look I can’t prove that I’m not a benevolent priestess from Arcturus

But even if that were the case, I know I’m only a semi ok human being

There is a decency, a middleness, that seems to give us major anxiety

Here on Earth and that seems to me a goodness artists and radicals

Those attracted to extremity, me, those who tend to wallow in negativity—

Neglect.  I mean, it pretty much seems as though

Wherever we are we come to Earth, if you’re reading this, we come to Earth to be human

The sexual misery in the theories of QAnon is truly amazing

It’s a catastrophe of the American imagination that even conspiracy theories are.... so bad

Right?  No freedom even in lunacy

Now what does that say?

No freedom even in lunacy

Moon, Mother, hast thou forsaken me?

Still there’s maybe one good thing I can say about the USA right now

For such a young empire wading through so much evil, maybe it’s something

That even in our advanced state of decay

A lot of us are looking at ourselves and endeavoring

Furiously to find better ways

I mean, when my soul is fucking dying I can feel it

And when I’ve done wrong the punishment begins instantly

In the pit of my guts.  We will build restorative justice from the pit

Of our guts.  Other grids will hold the truth of cities.  Reparations, repair

The notion of mending itself— did you know that’s an old theology?

That old theology is coming back.  But where could I go

To say that. I’ve always wondered what the place for such things was

Other than a poem, or loose talk with the ones I love, or a world I know exists

But yet see only in flashes.  I resist to put it in an essay

For there you might praise me for my intelligence. I’d like to turn it into beauty

But Practicing artlessly this art allows me to lay the feeling naked

Before your eyes resisting to make use of it…

I believe we are a young species ignorant of our origins

I believe Earth is a school where we learn to stop treating life so horribly

Do I believe that? I just typed it. Yeah. I think I do.

But can we please not be too uptight about it. I’m inspired by you

Still practicing this old technology

I mean, writing’s pretty old.  But poetry, song— medicinal

Speech— much older.

Why did they ever do that

Start writing it down? What does it mean I can’t really speak my soul

Except it flows down my arms into you?

Tell me.  Who first wrote it down?

What did that do to our mind.  Could I ever have been a singer?

Poetry used to be speech. Magic used to be a flow. What happens when you can’t remember

Everything you need to know?

Have to look it up?  Have to ask someone else?  Need an app

To prepare you for how you might feel today?

The first utterance it’s said belonged to the Creator.

Later, writing became important.

Latterly we write in number, as the Kabbalistic holy of holies

Is said to have done.  Still,

People used to say “It is written.”

Now most writing is selling.

I predict the written word will be valued even less

A hundred years from now. This is why

We have to practice telepathy, the art of memory

And the trickster’s art of pure speech....

What about the prison of a certain mode of megahertz

Thru which pop music pumps itself into me

Right down to this very day? “TV rots your brains”

Is a boomer phrase, but so much of manifest

Reality is bad TV, which you can scroll vertically

The perpendicular opposite of an old-time holy book

I feel like there are all these neglected vehicles for time travel lying around

Guitars and banjos, that Jew’s harp over there, the histories of dead religions

I wouldn’t recommend exactly reading but kind of squinting at or maybe brushing against

The way in the old world you’d brush against someone at a party

And never actually meet talk or fall in love till three years later

It’s so weird, who we are, what we’ve become, this embarrassment

Of riches we’ve been endowed and have only the faintest clue

How to use, and I have to keep reminding myself, Take what you need

And leave the rest. Take what you need and leave the rest.

Like good poems written by dead assholes who I’m in no danger of getting ruined by

Do you realize the lengths people used to have to go

To get something written, and once written and the people alarmed,

Safely hidden? Sometimes I feel like my body’s a jar

Whose contents are either treasure or sedition

And I spend all this energy trying to act like I don’t know

So you won’t notice and I’ll be safe.

Do you know how much I’ve been trolled, stalked, defamed

Assaulted, and hurt in my life? Oh but I don’t

Wanna talk about it. It isn’t interesting. It’s common.

I don’t want you to sympathize with me because I’ve been hurt

I don’t even want you to appreciate me if I ever manage to say something smart

I’m just trying to see if there’s another place we can go than this

If I put words in a certain order, and trick you into neither fearing nor feeling intimidated by me

Distracting you with my idiocy, maybe you’ll feel a little relief, maybe the invisible

World will come a little closer...

I’ve learned how to carry it around, my jar, and I’m even over

How I just feel dead sometimes and always have. Just dead.

I’m even over that. Know how to handle it.

Sometimes I see how stupid it is that I still fantasize about domestic bliss

When most of my heroes lived lives of hazard and torment

And actually it’s really very nice here in this big house

But the other reality gnaws at me, you know? Having to try and make a go

Of an honest life when there are children in cages and entire

Generations incarcerated and a kind of preening evil whose peripherality

To me and the ones I love and what matters to me is a total illusion

The evil is the center of things, the water thru which we row

A grinning skeleton is dancing his demented jig on the charnel ground. It me.
And I hate when white ladies say “It me.”  I just put that there

To see how it would feel. Didn’t like how it felt. Won’t do it again.

I know happiness is in action

And the only solution is to DO more, that’s always been

How it works for me, at least.

I just have this feeling for language

That I can’t shake. I feel it. I want a musical life.

It’s kind of crazy the way Jazz fueled Jack Kerouac and On the Road fed

The rock stars who came after, the Acid Tests, the whole white counterculture

Did women ever really get a sexual revolution? Has that happened?

Will there be a new renaissance of improvisatory music, queer Jewish

Chicken farmers, reparations in cash and land to all descendants

Of enslaved people in the USA? And an energy flowing like nectar

Into the deep pits and scars of identity, everything it gave us,

Everything it took away?  Have I eaten too much plastic

To be redeemed? My mom is drunk in a midtown hotel. She’s ok.

I found out the housing voucher I managed to get her over three years

Going to Bronx Housing Court on her behalf is actually paying the bill.

I found out something I tried and did for her didn’t totally fail.

Why am I telling you this now? I can’t write a poem without mixing things up.

I have one boring problem and all my other faults dance around it in a Busby

Berkeley concatenation. I so often catch myself

Not wanting to know what I know, I said to Dave last night

On our way to the bodega. It’s like the nanoparticulate of Americanness

These times have deposited into me. Addicted to this idea of innocence

As the condition for making anything new, I recognize the blanching

White cruelty and horny boyishness in the swelling of my voice

When I start to feel a little free.  It’s so weird to have this man in me.

Ken Kesey saying with unnerving sensuality that “a man has the right

To be as big as he feels himself to be” Yesterday’s counterculture

And yesterday’s angels and somebody else’s beauty and joy.

And yet I feel this swelling in my heart with the Leonine times

I feel how sick it made me when I tried to eat my own aura and tried

To grow small. In my two years of homelessness I longed to expand

To my natural size and taste. Can’t we share that.

For some reason last year in the fires in California I developed

A strange affection for “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys

Dad music my personal dad never listened to

It was a weird sonic amulet protecting J’s truck from the flames

But to think of only protecting one person, the one you love

Even that has got to go…..

Where does your imagination go? The cosmos itself, language,

The idea of being really truly felt and seen and known, which I no

Longer even imagine in dreams? I’m either trying to write about mass

Stupefaction or seeming to write about that while actually

Making a melody with the junk I found where no one else was looking.

Maybe I’m not working hard enough at art

Maybe I’m working too hard

America, I’ve been trying to correct my defects and not be a problem

For anybody else ever again — Puritanical

Overcoming, you are a boring and unshakeable mistress.

But making it pay makes it American.

When I think of the years I couldn’t listen to jazz I recognize

How dead my heart was then, how afraid I was to feel the other worlds

Even now, what if I told you if I didn’t write and read poetry

I’d be a monster basically?

A zombie.

Well what would that say about me?

No Ariana, wrong question. Like I said earlier

This is an old and under-researched technology

It isn’t about me

Its purpose remains obscure to me

Something about channeling energy

Didn’t Roland blow a horn? My people

Make primal sounds thru dead ram parts. What does it mean when Gabriel

Blows his horn. The trumpets of Jericho.  Time’s up. Music is as close to the universe

As I can feel. Closer than a crystal. Closer even than you...

Ariana Reines is a poet. A Sand Book (2019) won the Kingsley Tufts Award and was released last month in the UK.

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