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Rachel Blau DuPlessis Three Poems

Dream Poem

to my friend who dislikes this genre


Undeclared enigmas
        wander bumpy and
                flecked “betweens” until

one day
        and five brown birds

small-squeaks slip and twist.
        A clumped complain
                of attar and fleas

flocks bespeaking,
        beaking curb-dust.

aggression/ subtraction / air-puff
        feather balls;
                bellying and fluffed.

Song is speech
        of the dirt, etz-tze,
                bursts of birds

off-side pecks at each,
        chirrs the je
                tz   tez   it.

Implacable alertness
        poetic realism
                feathery thinking.

This is the practice, chirp
                It will test your last nerve.

These words swerve low to the ground.
Syntaxes peck and poke

swooping at implication
of incantatory information,

veering energy, with today
made declarative. It’s

anything that sees anything
seething inside polyphony:

Nu?   The now-what of Now-Time.

A Series of Codas

Exile is not the word
I want use
so I am inventing songs
with other words--

other ways of checking
        overtones against
        the tuning note, the A, sonority,
                bringing myself back
                from X isle.

                        But is this even true?
If I have to “bring myself back”
perhaps exile is
the word I have to use.

The water goes slosh and then
whisssh, almost silent against the shore.
In muddied sand, I struggle to get inland.

                                                        Even “coming back,” you are
                                                        still continuing forward.
                                                        What do you mean “return”?

The songs are wobbled,
                but, say, the job is songs,
                songs, maybe untuned, what’s
wrong with that? micro-tonal, or
praise-type, serenades

                or maybe jostling
                the world so it does not desert us

with the opportunistic disgust it is
currently full on
exfoliating. In death.
        Songs as reminders.
                Of what?

                of an otherwise?
Split the difference
and “just” sing--                              (la la)

To “sing”—I had no task but this,
but what came out--
                flattish two note hints
                strained sounding
                fragments. Were toneless.

Songs of exile
then? I huddled down the road I’d got
        and wept.

Have to get up.
Get out of this.
Stand quickly, get dizzy,
stumble down, tumble
hard, but only hands and side,
only down on grit.
I roll away     from myself as the site of

and found myself graveled at the edge of

Picked up.
That’s correct. An
adequate “next.”

slaps, patch,
rips, the head, bone, one.
Blood. Everything even
in its uneven stun.

I could try holding onto? –I don’t know what.
Walking forward—being that fraught?

Now where to? Nothing exactly the same.
Can’t see how different but the feeling
is uncertain,

Then looming apparatus–equipment-- this
will never stop-- she said I’d stolen

her internet! she choked me
for it     nothing in the story fit
how can I get out of a dream—
I did not choose
this borderland. Connectedness?

Who is this woman, face to whom
I premised to pay, to lay
life? Not yet.
I have not unlearned enough.

Personal Privacy Equipment at issue
in February
how to turn off all those settings
how to monitor people zooming into
your life

Personal Protection Equipment
in March
to monetize untainted air
with any hope of offering any care—

Then broken machinery at full taunt,
Malfeasance gone viral
in May,
the gesture of Washing one’s Hands of it.

                                                        That woman was not the villain that I’d thought.
                                                        There’s other factors.

Rolling galumphs of uncertainty spooked with bolts
of curiosity about even more disaster.

“Are you a carrier?
Are you infectable?”

This “Throw of the Die that does not
Stop Chance” billboard

is being featured
in every medium—a broadcast,

some Malware upscale up.
The newspapers offer

There we were, stare out, gapers

in the ice-white glare,

As for adding where in a particular
spot in all these “primary elements”—though a small
decision it seemed. But such a thought
precipitated how, who, when
and where to.
What should we continue to do
and what not?

                                                        What assumptions are already fixed
                                                        deep in this poem’s infrastructure?

Did we just find, right now
right here that our life to date
was suddenly shaped in the form of a coda?

All the rolling and the verge, the stealing,
incomplete not-even singing,
something given to pay up, no cash,
just walking.

Are we living after our life?
Living out life, or after.

The poem whose premises
one viewed and said “eh?”

So it’s Aftermath,
like an earth
that has spun its poles

magnetically, an earth
in the olden numbered-millions
-of-years calculus, but now
(cosmos aside;
back down in tiny time)
there’s no accepted
read-out yet how long
a coda is,
even in plainsong.

What to do then?
Is keep adding on enough codas.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, poet, critic, and collagist. Her recent book is Late Work (Black Square Editions, 2020) from the series Traces, with Days, including Days and Works (2017) and Around the Day in 80 Worlds (BlazeVOX, 2018). In-print collage-poems are “Churning the Ocean of Milk" (Alligatorzine, #160, 2014), Graphic Novella (Xexoxial Editions, 2015), and NUMBERS (Materialist Press, 2018).
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