Mudlark Flash No. 154 (2018)

The Secret Life of Nouns
by Jeffrey Little


Karoline Wileczek
The Levitation of the Orange Log
oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

The Secret Life of Nouns

(Self Portrait in Powder Blue Pants)

The error? In thinking too roundly. Thinking in light bulbs as opposed
to a cave painting or the broken shell of a once-was egg. In my dream
I am not dressed in the heretofore agreed upon pair of powder blue 
pants. This confuses me, so much so that I stutter on out of bed, grab 

a cab down to market, and gaze upon the zeppelins of smoked meats
fanned out like the flagships of Albion in a dazzling antiseptic display. 
The doors that, in daylight, open automatically, do not do so at night.
Hundreds of unseen hands feverishly working the moist clay into pinch 

pots while an empty kayak floats beyond the surface of the lake. It’s
exactly as it seems. What you’d read about in the back of an old comic
book pieced together with catgut and staples and rinds, undeliverable,
motes of an equation that will never be found. The secret life of nouns.

The Return of the Secret Life of Nouns

(Still Life with Missing Banana)

I puddled myself across the floor. I was like a foul pole, or the second
coming of the curtsy. Beneath the hearth rug I spotted a cow catcher, 
ten million slaves, a metal lunch box and one brown bottle of Paregoric  
Tincture Number 20. This is a planet awash in nouns. Napalm summer

saxophone tourniquet bog and Robert Johnson’s bad left eye. Stalked                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
by a Panamanian fungus the Gros Michel had nowhere to hide. A road
but runs. Till it don’t. Mother me on up to the shelf on Gold Mountain 
and sing like the caucus of a misfired brain. I’m sitting in a plastic chair 

holding a comic book and a pearl stick pin but what I could really use 
is an alias and a map in a clay pot to guide me to the city folded inside
the town. We dredged the lake in search of a quotient and the curve. 
The Great Fear had returned, and with it, the naming, dead letter gone.

The Bride of the Secret Life of Nouns

(Landscape in Echo and Omission, with Clay Pigeon)

Garlands of the lost nouns off in thicket, draped over the branches of the elms.
I approach from the north clutching a page torn from a comic book with a pair
of dictionaries strapped like sandals to my feet. There are exactly twelve ways 
left for me to speak and I have forgotten all but three. The math is a struggle.

No one was looking so we sat and looked at ourselves not looking as a wedge
of echo calved itself from the hills. According to the witch doctor a clay pigeon
calls a creek bed Time, but none of us here wear pants. On the first trip I ever
took to the mill I counted everything I could name, crosshatched in red ledger. 

Now I walk in the round, I hold round objects and I carry them over to a cave
where I push the perfect round boulder back in place. Notes from the Hidden
Storehouse. When I was married I did my best to think it all through, I allowed
myself to believe in the leaves and the mink cup and in the secret life of nouns.

The Son of The Secret Life of Nouns

(Imaginary Interior, Misremembered)

Walls. Objects litter the walls. A kayak and an egg cup. An assortment
of skulls fired in a raku kiln. A wooden door found but to stare through.
A massing. Walls inside of walls. We had shed too much to understand.
Clouds of fur spun down from some unknown above as I hauled the husk

of a comic book through a deserted supermarket in a quest for the last 
language with a top that locked. Outside, the roads they just up and quit.  
We were mountain people now. A clutch of feet without one good leg 
to speak well of. I was home. There was a ceramic bowl of panic grass

cemented to a target painted on the floor and an orange log simmering
on the stove. Stories are spoken, of a manual, with its system of parsing
the objects that remain, a palimpsest of relics with a dodgy provenance, 
but the punctuation escapes me, so I sit here and I sound out the walls.

The Journey to the Center of The Secret Life of Nouns

(Abstraction in Red and Blue, with Runaway Truck Ramp)

In a closed grid as in a curtain of clay, often, if, of, typeface and talking walls,
the box car dissolved.  In the center of the skeletal echo is the sign, the sigil, 
the long bald hunger of a servo howling for its historical return. The Secret 
Life of Nouns. I eats what I want, and when, bilious, under heavy reductive. 

There ain’t no back to go back to anymore. What they do. Scratch redound,
a reverb in red and a running of relics, shock, shuck, emptier pounds beyond
ends approaching a roll of the ink and the all that’s left us, an ink of uncertain 
sounds. If no one was looking, well, no one was looking, the shoeless ghosts 

of the obsolescence, just floating there, beneath the ash can ghosts of trees,
the powder blue skyline and the banana boats and the tenuous door of what 
went where, which numbers, which Storehouse, which rune-set and sedition,
I’m lost, a pidgin of translated bone, and no place names, grown to re-arising.

Jeffrey Little, in the third person, is “a narrative poet, wrapped in a comic book, inside of a smoking beach ball that bounces strangely like Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. He is the author of three poetry collections, Five & Dime (Rank Stranger Press), The Book of Arcana, and The Hotel Sterno (Spout Press, both), as well as three chapbooks housed at Mudlark.”

Is Nature is as a Sound is as Zero is as the Hook Dog Blues
Biography As In Syntax: The Babble Poems
crayola in arcana

“In 2001, the State of Delaware bunted a Poetry Fellowship his way, which he fielded cleanly and threw to second for the force. His poetry has been published here and there. But not there. Jeffrey is an insomniac, the proud father of two teens, and is the husband of the wonderful painter Karoline Wileczek.”

The Secret Life of Nouns was originally published in DreamStreets #55 by editor Steven Leech, the pre-eminent steward of Delaware Letters. Many thanks are due. Archives are on view at

Karoline Wileczek has an MFA in Painting from the University of Minnesota and a BFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Her work has been shown at the Delaware Contemporary, Minneapolis Institute of Art, and The Soap Factory in Minneapolis among other venues, and is held in private collections across the country. She was a Delaware Division of the Arts Fellow in Painting for the year 2002 and a 2006 recipient of an Opportunity grant. Recently, in 2015, Wileczek was awarded an emerging grant for works on paper also from the DDOA. Currently she is continuing her series of paintings ignited by contemplations on the firefly, and will be showing in the Hatch Gallery at the Delaware Contemporary in June 2018

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