“The Sense Series was originally conceived of as a ‘contemporaneous’ epic poem, primarily because of its length, scope and adaptations as oral performance. Begun in January, 2005, it is now over 150-pages long and ongoing, with additions being made daily. Book One, Sections I-III are the very beginning of the poem. The voice of the poem’s speaker travels between first, second and third person recording observations, images and ideas that altogether have the effect of fusing poetry, poetic memoir, autobiography, biography and contemporary social commentary. An excerpt from the poem has served as the text for a multi-media performance at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.”
I. We are not starting in the middle. It was round with a hole in the center. It wants to lie flat. Purpose, turning its head, remained neutral. Three were waiting; two were late. The rubber tire landed on its side. Do I still owe you if I’ve paid you? Emeralds and rubies, wanton remnants of amour, littered her carpets. Money enters with its mother’s head on a platter. Everything. Composition with Black and Air. Composition with White and Water. Composition with Manganese and Celery. Composition with Lesions and Isopods. Composition with Truffles and Seascapes. Composition with Blue and Disappearance. She held the one daughter in her arms, turning the book upside down. She spilled phosphorus on the kitchen counter and wiped it up with her childhood. To modulate a crisis, write a poem on the girl’s palm. When is there a story in the truth? Lopsided minutes blend into the blue page. Character blows exhaust into the bougainvillea. The brunettes, clutching red, brown, and white roses, bared their chests; the stars and scars mingling together in conjugal ecstasy. Umbrellas block the rain’s path while puddles coddle the instance of sleep. In the green glass room, a hibiscus closes its eyes and smells the winter’s quarry. One eloped with the family’s secrets sewn into the lining of her pink silk nightgown. Casualties, in the form of wilted lettuce and moldy strawberries, descended before the eruptions of sanctimoniousness could quell the simple verbs. Long-term leases snapped in the propeller’s wake; only children slept through the rumbling repetitions, words racing away from meaning, twisting under umbrellas left open. Elevating my tongue, I can smell jealousy leaking and taste it when it drips out her nostril. In her language, there is no word for remember, but there are 15 ways to say go to sleep. I am now writing to not write a poem. The flu choked the anger out of his lungs. She prescribed orange for the pillows. The coy part had sex with the uninteresting painting while the hamburger watched. It was rage first, which excited her enthusiasm for the brightening sky. After domestication, she led the bus tour with articulate aplomb. Chemicals zipped past artists’ houses; she showed downstairs vermillion and tangerine.
II. Vinyl hair, acrylic bunions, nylon fingernails, rayon lipsticks, mohair bras, velvet pencils, satin shovels, suede thermometers, leather tongue depressors, wool spoons, corduroy wheels. Silver elitists spreading gasoline under the earth’s waves ferried their earaches to the temple of the discouraged. One small bird cried, his beak sweating rainwater. The conspiracy, a brown buzzing noise without a video component, deflated like a fast-food restaurant without electricity. Why use without twice when with once suffices? The twin sisters had the formula; one had black hair, the other green teeth. Telepathic teeth, thirsty television, telegrammed terror. Irish nerves sound in the walls: thump thump, thump thump. Stiff acuity, padded with acorns, stuffed with krypton, has invited itself to the Feast of the Assumption. What is the first color you remember? I am speaking the color red. I will delete the shift in voice. Sharing the conflict between subject and object, she alighted on the bridge connecting confidence and doubt. The day changed in a headache, but the rubber cement will be procured! Baudelaire ate his croissant; Artaud crushed the lavandine, and verses cured in the smokehouse wrapped in the skin of the pig. The fence encircled the center of the city of Chicago and when she clipped her wire-cutters along the top, pieces fell away like the dried leaves of a ficus. Marbled, she missed one day, then two, without realizing that she let them go by, entering a time when the control she had over what happened and what did not became unimportant or confounding, really, or a combination of the two; she had worked hard to get herself out there only to find that she was still in here! What if, everyday, there are two thoughts regarding action which enter your mind; one of them you are pursuing; one of them you are not: does that make all of your life unfulfilled because one part goes unattended? Paint before you fall asleep. What is the meaning of an upholstered chair? The massive Etruscan stone held his soul so they were surprised when his body remained in Pasadena, California. It would be okay if his soul went somewhere else; if platitudes could express real feeling; if death could be explained in a way in which it did not mean an irrevocable separation. That is why ED speaks of infinity. When is a window not a window? “The meaning being what the poet finds in the act of writing.” Laura Riding When she was released from the sentence, where did it go? Boxing will produce fiduciary constraints if movie stars take their toddlers to the park. The fullness of a rainy day relaxes slipcovers.
III. The conduit asked her for help; she was trying to understand the difference between thinking and I am. Stems collide with leaves’ impressions and everyone wakes up in about. Nouns, melting slowly over a low flame, are not adjectives; parts of speech are given these names to define their place in the infrastructure of language. Magnifying the square root of obsession, she calculated the sum of her disappointments. The snow was an accomplice to the cover up; towels wiped up the last stains of the relationship. Lamb, lamb, garlic and the birth of the sun, warming my cortex, converting me from analytical shut-in to participant. Iced medicine slid down his throat, cooling his blisters. What of elephant, corset, beginning to, lampshade, rarely, electronic and from? I was for waiting for, I was looking for what was beyond the sound of a plastic bag inside a bunch of other plastic bags, being carried from one trash can to another, when I saw it. Misspellings noshing, lineation purple, to cold, to pinch variety awkward Incarcerated in the bottom half of her sandwich, she cleared her throat and yelled out through the lettuce: “Welcome to the party!” She placed the call on the top of the silver scrim and watched it as it dripped down, wetting the fabric underneath it, puncturing the curtains as they listed in the post-storm February morning. Impositions begin to advise us on the gradual retraction of extensions we made when we were innocent. Rent in the village cleaned out the purses of the dirty; they lifted the skin off their faces and painted their hair black while oranges rolled on the floors of the workshops. Constant heat, sockets afire Eliminate tiring icons! Gingerly, the khaki, the nail, the tea, calloused, plugged in, straightened, ballooning, busiest, flexed and order. The dining room walls, paneled in lilac velvet, boasted the history of Persia; one man offered a reclining woman a pipe; in their embroidered jackets the silk worm nested. How are doors supposed to open when bugs have infested the euonymus, cowering there during the winter, expecting hosts to blunder through in their boots, turning into guests whose beds have not been made yet? If that dominates me, do I take from Louise what I have already? How does the bagel resemble the navel except for their sound and the fact that they’re round? Indigenous measurements populate her “this”; she will not excuse them, she will not subvert them to the industrial might of the dream; instead, she will declare “am” to be the present. Portaging over the cracks in the foundation, they made their way to the powder, the ground up portions of their childhoods which had not yet become cement. And the bladder burst, simply, after subsequent operations failed to manipulate the back hoe’s intent, the scrutiny of the diamond scratching time’s polyester lining. She bit my cortex and my blood spurted out into the garbage disposal with her spit but no and when if why could not reverse it. Edit her addictions to flesh out what’s left of the loaf, the bread we called friendship, the bread we sliced into 14 pieces again and again. Shriek about dog about roof about confinement about miscarriage about the two million dollars ringing next to you. The upholstered cough of a man, injecting himself into the woman who assigns him a title, who washes his sheets with a cold hand. Fever entered like the samba the heat burning the last residue of affection turning butter to brown bubbles blackening the corners of the griddle. The pores of the automobile were stuffed with feather enhancing the mind just enough for the acceleration to click into place at the highest speed of song. Sarcastically, sarcasm entered therapy; the curt lieutenant wrote a check and all our problems were shampoo.
Sally Van Doren’s first book, Sex at Noon Taxes (LSU Press 2008), received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her next collection, Possessive, is forthcoming in Fall 2012. Her poems have appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Barrow Street, Boulevard, Ellipsis, Hubbub, Lumina, Margie, The New Republic, No Tell Motel, Roger, Southwest Review, 2River, U City Review, and Verse Daily among many other journals. Her poem “Preposition” is featured as an animated film in the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Everywhere program. She curates the Sunday Workshop Series for the St. Louis Poetry Center and has taught in the St. Louis Public Schools and at the Summer Writer’s Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.