Sunday, September 20, 2009

Catherine Meng


The island is a graph in which this exists:
you are sitting

                      are you sitting?

you are standing
                      are you standing?

you are reading
you must be reading

because you read
the island
as the poem does

without confidants

it wields a nasty frond

or has never known

this tender shoot it grows


Ocean begets its image in its own turns

how it circles out from the start & cuts off –
how it begins an ending like a wave would.

All the parts are in shadow
complete with unseen gears

that fall across the face

making acronyms
outside of compliance

always peeing where the others have peed.

We have a century! We have a history! Suddenly

even the present is revisable.


Subscription cards fall out of your mouth
like retold stories we snore through
but in this case they were never told

so this is a big fiction

with first fruit
breathing toward intent –

really letting the moment unfurl it
until the ripened object

takes the shape of something
there is no copy of


immediately the thing sounded


& I busied myself with my glasses.

Writing poems for the republican squid
I was nasty in a nice way

same as my enabling neighbors.

Here at last was the imagined but never realized place
leaping into real life


I lost my first fraction of sight in math class

2 years after I watched a load of dripping laundry get pulled
mid-cycle from the machine


William Blake: Do you still have my eyeglasses?
Nobody: No, I traded them. do you have any tobacco?
William Blake: No, I traded it.
Nobody: For what?
William Blake: I’m not telling.
Nobody: Liar.
William Blake: Thief.


The boy had gone missing but the dog remained
a nuisance

digging up relations we never saw die

until the only habit that remained was kunst –
perhaps it survived to revise past tendencies

always kunst in the dream
kunst in the dinner
kunst in the tent


when we arrived there were 74 cigarettes
& now there is one

but we still haven’t decided
on who will be chief

we soon discover voting
decides nothing at all

but the toy of voting can be just as pleasing
as a seashell


There was nothing wrong with anything, but you could not place yourself anywhere


The jungle minutely vibrated


with strains of destroyed music
under palms of a formal math

you are always in a car before me
turning to the left


In our liver perhaps we knew

we were being watched
by a world of terrified animals

but we often forgot that ache
& loved each other.


I think I see a polar bear. No. It’s a white rock.


Perhaps I knew in advance
that the dead thing would die

because I dreamed it died
before it did

& told the dead thing so.
He tried to act unaffected

but I saw his skin betray his theater.

Way after the fact I became pleased with my decision.

I didn’t mind falling behind

a Winnebago on the freeway.

I barfed silently as if on stilts –
as if it was not a good island.


The pilot said nothing to the contrary.
The pilot has the best manners
because, duh! He’s the pilot. Or he was.


When birds fly through the jungle

all at once the many ventricles

sputter out –


that we were stranded outside of the greater sadness

that we took up canteens

& masked, made a go at survival.
Unsure our legs weren’t broke

unsure our brains thumped right
unsure our brains registered anything

against the blue screen.

Catherine Meng lives in Berkeley, CA. Her first collection of poems,
Tonight's the Night, was published in 2007 by Apostrophe Books.