Barbara Tomash

Five poems from Her Scant State

—an erasure of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady
 
 

a smile of welcome        a zone of fine June weather
a territorial fact        native land        a character
a queer country across the sea        the rosebud in a buttonhole
these words of not perfect        loose thinker
fell in love with novel’s fancy phrase        in a windless place
I offer myself to you        light turned into exhalation
caught in a vast cage

————————————————————————————————
Her ambiguities composed all of the same flower. Fertile. Flourished. A fault of her own. It might feed her. Like a small hand. A kind of coercive. Not neglect. A negative, imaginatively, already existing. Her eyes prettiest. The day that I speak of. The short grass. A shorter undulation. A handful put into water—an image. “To bring you to this house.” Isabel listened to this.

 
 
 
 
 

a need        to be easily renounced
hampered at every        neither father        nor mother
poor and of a serious        not pretty        hundreds of miles of
“I’ll go home”        the masses of furniture        hid her face
in her arms        like the payment for a stamped receipt
aspiring murmur        a threat refused        three times
conceals from you        America diverted by a novel

————————————————————————————————
“A marriage,” said Isabel, “is not at all large.” In her lucidity, no light to spare.

 
 
 
 
 

a witness        not struck with       smooth woman
the fluttered flapping quality        of the sadness now settling
empty; but        no one invited her       not the least little child

————————————————————————————————
Meager synthesis, impossible dinner. Inviting “them”—as something so literal, stupid. To be honest as most people, equally honest, flattering herself. Irresistible need living in the upper air, up a steep staircase perpendicular to husband. Wishes as good as straps and buckles. Devoted evening—“I’ve never given anyone else a mistake as perfect.”

 
 
 
 
 

drifting

take care        heart        take care

do you know where you are drifting?

————————————————————————————————
Under the influence of to marry, hands laid on. “Lay them on yourself.” A woman thinks she may doubt time. It came over her in uttering. A wounded face expresses nothing. The master; the mistress.

 
 
 
 
 

ah, don’t say that
fresh        cheerful
facetious
the most charming        young
only proves        she wants
she wants        proposition
obliterated

————————————————————————————————
Her dresses, her falsehoods. “What do you mean by ‘people’?” “Servants whom you pay?” “They’re human beings.” “Are there any women?” “You can buy me off.” “Take care of me.” “I submit.” And this was the only conversation, unpleasantly perverse, like the stricken deer.

 
 
 
 
 

Her Scant State is a book-length erasure of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. Entering James’s text as source material, I have, of course, been grappling with America, my native place, as a landscape carved by floods of competing ideologies including that of a hopeful, aspiring, and often violent capitalism. My inquiry focuses on women, but my point of view must shift in this novelized America made of many erasures. Perhaps home can never be described if a personal and aesthetic dislocation is not risked. In terms of the form on the page, the first half of The Portrait of a Lady runs across the top of each page of Her Scant State and the second half of the novel runs across the bottom of each page, beneath the line.
Barbara Tomash is the author of four books of poetry, PRE- (Black Radish Books 2018), Arboreal (Apogee 2014), Flying in Water, which won the 2005 Winnow First Poetry Award, and The Secret of White (Spuyten Duyvil 2009). An earlier version of PRE- was a finalist for the Colorado Prize and the Rescue Press Black Box Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Web Conjunctions, New American Writing and numerous other journals.

Kelly Nelson

I Hear America Singing

I loved a pricey device
for igniting a bomb,

free of purpose,
intent, more just

winging it, feathery
accessory, accessory, accessory.

Yes, they’re trendy.
Yes, they’re made

of gold. Unparalleled, they are
that too.

________________

América carols mechanics singing plank máson
leaves boatman boat steamboat nging sits on bench
nging song delicious or of young singing party songs

 
 

I, Too

Yeah, I know money
tucks away

the muzzle, money
swallows

the moan. I know—
I loved a loaded woman.

________________

ng nd company comes well Tomorrow
company comes Say e ashaméd America

 
 

Danse Russe

I already gave you
my supper

& the abortion
& my jiggle

of egg, milk & sweet.

________________

baby and white disc mists dance naked, grotesquely
lonely was born to lonely admire flanks

 
 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

I know that mansion
& I know

she laid out
in the sun. It was

an inelegant tow rope
I wore & I know

she derided me, a thousand
times she jeered.

________________

Who these village My horsé queer To stóp
farmhousé To ask Of easy downy promis
miles befóre miles befóre

 
 

The Day Lady Died

You’re only half
here, I submit.

Your cough, adorable
as a bullet, walking

like fending off
a bull. A bird

the accidental inmate
of a cardboard box.

I spun no feathers
around your neck.

________________

York and I go shoeshine I don’t sun to see these Linda
bala
nce quandariness store and Avenue Theatre and
casually cartón cartón now whilé keyboard

 
 

The Road Not Taken

I pray to see
the possum

before it sees me. It prays
to see me

like this—buckled
and gasping for breath.

________________

Two roads diverged far as wanted same leaves
for another ever come a sígh hence has made
These poems were created through a process of experimental translation. I start by finding Spanish words living within well-known poems written in English. For instance, a Spanish river (río) runs through the middle of the word serious and the word darkness begins with the Spanish verb to give (dar). I then gather a constellation of these unintended Spanish words and translate them into English to compose new works.

The erasure-palimpsests that appear below each poem carry echoes of the original poems while also showing these two languages coexisting within the same lines, the same words. This is my own small way of trying to unbuild the wall between us and our neighbors to the south.

These poems retain the original titles of the source texts, poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara and Robert Frost.

Kelly Nelson’s experimental translations have appeared in Anomaly, Interim, Seattle Review, Best American Experimental Writing and elsewhere. She teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University and is the author of two chapbooks. More at kelly-nelson.com.

Sonja Johanson

Gneiss

At least
reinvent
destiny
tatters
within geological strata
toss them into
a       billion
little
days
All of them

erasure, Anne Rice, Taltos, p.10
Pinnae segments from fertile fronds, Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis

Divinity

choose
to
fall into
quantum physics
tracing the path of particles
within
this
brimming world
this
empire                      of                      paper
zeal

erasure, Anne Rice, Taltos, p. 470
simple leaves, Pincushion Moss, Leucobryum glaucum

Bradbury

orange
black
mixed and ready,
dying in the air.
a discreet
cleft.
night,
came again,
dark and distinct,

erasure, Anne Rice, Taltos, p. 120
capsules and berries, Japanese Spindle and Privet, Euonymous japonica and Ligustrum compactum

This series of erasures use the Anne Rice novel Taltos as their source text. I elected to perform these erasures using plant materials as a way of celebrating and mourning our current ecological state; the breakneck speed of climate change and globalization is easily observed by those working in horticulture and conservation. These plants represent both native plants that are threatened by habitat loss and the non-natives that are replacing them. In selecting materials for these erasures, I looked for plants that were accessible in the New England landscape during the month of October, and sought diversity of form, texture, colour, and botanical structures.

Sonja Johanson has recent work appearing in THRUSH, Bellevue Literary Review, and American Life in Poetry. She is a contributing editor at the Eastern Iowa Review, and the author of Impossible Dovetail (IDES, Silver Birch Press), all those ragged scars (Choose the Sword Press), and Trees in Our Dooryards (Redbird Chapbooks). Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine. Follow her at sonjajohanson.net.

Carlo Matos

Wolf Erasures

1.

Carlo_Matos-WolfErasures-1
*Simone Muench’s original cento appeared in Whiskey Island

2.

Carlo_Matos-WolfErasures-2
*Simone Muench’s original cento appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day

3.

Carlo_Matos-WolfErasures-3
*Simone Muench’s original cento appeared in Poets & Artists

Artist’s Statement

These erasures of poems from Simone Muench’s Wolf Centos are part of a larger manuscript in which I am systematically erasing the wolf from Wolf Centos. The conceit is that Muench’s book has been recently declassified, but like all declassified government documents, any sensitive (or damning) information has been blacked out.

Carlo Matos has published nine books, including It’s Best Not to Interrupt Her Experiments (forthcoming Negative Capability Press). His anthology of Portuguese-American and Portuguese-Canadian writing (co-edited with Luis Gonçalves) is now available from Boavista Press. His work has appeared in such journals as Iowa Review, Boston Review, and Rhino, among many others. Carlo has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Fundação Luso-Americana, and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. Follow him on twitter @CarloMatos46.