Elegy for the Letter Q as It Appears in The Waves
No question, it was the quality of the quadrangles quailed with queues (in quads) that no queen – queer or not – would have sufficient qualities to (quarter or no) quarrel her way through. Though quarrelling might be thought common, a quest among quirky and quizzical quartets, it was actually quite uncommon. Quietly she quivered in a quicksilver quarto of quoits. She was quickest, at least quicker, and she quarrelled, quenched and in quotations, finally, quizzically, quit.
Like a Jet
Little streams passed all over their bodies.
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
A hole in the sky where softness hung,
A crater where the world was, a moment
The size of Manhattan: amazed
We are not all sliding in.
I skirt abjection, drag my nails against
The hours. My eyes for one more glimpse,
Ochre (August, the rough tear of cotton,
The lace and wire, a harness of
Clinging). There is no shrugging off
Weight, no exit ramp, no ease or release,
Perpetual shoulders on orange alert, jaw
Scraping the floor, the body contorts,
The body is fluid: I am leaking,
I no longer care who sees me leak.
I held her briefly at the end because finally
She could not scowl me away. Felt her unlatch,
A small mass, rocketing like helium, body
Already a swelling replicate of self.
I could see no verve, no afterburn, no spirit
Lingering, just my empty reaching out:
How the dead can cower on the wing of
A plane or, like a missile, shoot out of sight.
Muffled drum of heart, my lungs, aging boxers
Swelling in a crow storm, hungry as Buck
Mulligan for her words, I chew them now,
Hollow seed pods catching on my tongue,
Those whiskers of good intention: sad
Eliot’s jet, as if hoarding, gorging, on pain.
Every last vein crammed with absence. Hers
Yours, ours, I must return to the now.
Two Incompatible screens, the pixelated grief,
The polyurethane grief, stuffed, animated,
Shrunken sweaters aping across an abandoned
Gym, Sexton’s arms outstretched, smoky
Scotch a glass clinking across the honeyed floor.
I await your return and, with it, futures
Uncorking. Hold tight, spray of time, we don’t
Race to death, it comes at us; there is no safety fence.
Once you drop, you walk into the forest as though
You owned it, you turn, wave, inhale black of day,
Exhale sight. Inhale death, exhale life, Ozymandias:
Everything that lives is light and she is now dark.
Time, they say, time, and with it healing but also
Recrimination and upset, my tumourette an airbag
Behind my eyes, blind me, my lack of patience:
Why is my exuberance rewarded? Hers snuffed?
Siblings crumble slow, unremarkable
As fences across the prairie. Who set the bar
So low? Who has tagged her foot? Mine?
Those red lines traced across a chest,
A lung split open: hard pebbles of light
Pelt your ease. Those high-wire walkers vibrating
In the pain know something of loss’s
Hammer, a persistent drum kit open under
The eave where pincers crack
A fly skull.
She is everywhere, the widening screen,
A surge in the weather, pages blooming,
Lines with animal movements, useless stalking.
I stare into the soup, trying to ignite some memory
Of eating. Sweet rain where Raven, carrying summer
Storms, stomps the air: a bull, head ready to draw
The sky closed. The more death we know the closer
We are, and yes, the onward path, packed with guilt
And smart knots where pleasures show. I go to
August with her horses, to the clover path under
The power lines. There is no traceable reaction to
The arbutus’s shedding while all else blooms, we
Upswing and trill, tunnel our emotions. No more death
Please: bite hard, I want to feel the future coming.
I felt something snap just now. It wasn’t you parting
Your body – it’s months after that, as if all this time
Grief has been spinning our heels and now we slow, steady,
Let it nestle into a fold with the lost coins and lint.
Where you were, the sawed-off limbs of a birch, a scorch
Of concrete, a hemline, shoulders wedged, socks like muffins
Oozing out of jeans, fashion is also exhausted, and who
Cares about whims, please save me from abstraction.
Who will sort the apples? Leonard. Leonard will sort the
Apples. Frederick will drive the car. Jack will feel for you.
Describing is owning. Give me a woman with a lens
In her hand. Give me a woman with a will to read.
Give a woman a lost woman, an open vista, a stack of vellum,
Give me Time, give me swagger, give me your ears.
All the gods know is destinations. I have raised
A glass, my eye, your hook. Let’s face it, the world
Is a shrinking place and hungry: too much grief
To feed. I float away from you on hard
Covers. I step out on the stacked hours. Words
If they were soil, I would throw them back into the
Compost pile and wait for spring. Those ‘this is how
It is’ speeches appear and later diamonds soft as bullets.
I went to the library looking to scaffold my thoughts.
Sure, now you say Lucretius. Intelligence is so often
Hindsight. Outside Holly Golightly’s townhouse
There are taxis. The end of me, or you, is of no concern.
Frederick Seidel anoints me with the head of his penis.
It is soft as a chamois and spreads like egg across my scalp.
Elegy for Agnes Martin (click on pic to enlarge)
(Poems from MxT by Sina Queyras, copyright 2014 by Coach House Books)
Nick Comilla: In works such as Expressway, you explore the various ways that increasing communication and connections in a globalized world both brings us together and separates us. I'm wondering what you think of this phenomenon regarding Canadian identity and poetry. Having lived in both the US and Canada, to what extent do you think national identities (and national poetics) are something we adopt and pick up along the way versus something innate and unchanging - both in terms of identity but also the impact that has on poetry? To what extent does the Expressway cross international borders - both literally and figuratively - and what does that mean for Canadian poetry in contrast to American poetry?
Sina Queyras: Thanks for the question, Nick. At one point I thought about using the highway from Toronto to New York as a way to foster discussions around mobility, nationality, global relations and climate change. I moved to the United States a year before 9/11 and stayed another six after. My time there was really guided by a sense of despair over the disconnect not only of our daily lives, but our lives as poets, the vast difference between our lived and writing lives. I say this because I thought that this was tied to identity, and that Canadians were somehow more connected, but I am not so sure that is true anymore. There are real differences, such as access to health care, more relationship to wild perhaps--but on either side of the border we struggle to be as truthful to ourselves and to our readers as we can handle being. We also struggle to have a kind of elegant writerly life and be real in the world and in the poetry. This is increasingly difficult to achieve anywhere in the world.
Born on a military base turned ghost town in Rome, NY, Nick Comilla currently lives in NYC. His poems have appeared in Assaracus, Poetry is Dead, Lambda Literary and HOMO Magazine. He is a poetry/fiction MFA student at The New School where he is currently working on his first book project, Ghosts of Montreal.
Sina Queyras is the author of the Lambda Award–winning Lemon Hound, Expressway (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award), and the novel Autobiography of Childhood (shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award). She often writes for the Poetry Foundation and runs the online journal Lemon Hound.