January 2013

Lightsey Darst


New Years Party

There are two kinds of New Year's parties. One breaks up shortly after midnight, when all the couples have exchanged their public kiss and are eager to go home and get on with it or else quit pretending. At the other kind, the midnight kiss is just the beginning. Two am comes and goes and you're still drinking wine, trading glances around the contracted circle, wondering what comes next.

At the party there are people who talk like this:

"But freedom is a value."
"Say 'has a value' and it can be traded."

Like everyone here, you came because you needed to get out -- not because you need to talk, but because you need to touch.

"Freedom x Need = Reality."

_________ = Art."

"Then Art X Reality = Freedom."

Are these your beautiful problems?

_________ = Reality?"

"Where art is politics."

The speakers are getting closer together. You are getting farther apart. I was ruling the world with you, the girl said when you kissed her. Then someone asked, "Why do you write?" and someone else said --

Funny to be moved by exigencies of market to write poems, to
deadline, out of time "must write poems to fill the huge demand
for them."

Poem as blister formed through friction, swelled atoll, sucked
fluid from the body of the host. I made no money from my poems
but they statused me.

If you wanted to hear more you were among the elect. The twelve o'clock couples went home, like Cinderella. Stay past midnight and you lose your disguise. She went on:

All readers: take a union breath, trust me? for I started
to know-what-I-was-doing in a poem, the intuition track laid out
prior, poem aligns and rolls (if rickety) headlit and through the
forest. When it instead should unalign and disembark the trees.

When you become expert it's time to quit, as in a marriage. No one present would argue that. That is why all of us are still here. You have to keep not knowing, at all costs.

For example, you don't know the man by the orange salvage bookcase. He's handling the bust of Poe. Go talk to him, you like men who like to handle poetry.

I enter my carcass
     to embrace you
-- Our proscenium
foreheads touch

It's impossible. You've tried this routine so many times that there's not even an audience for it, or perhaps not even a performer. You don't have, can't get the sense of another you at the other end of it. You drift off.

This lack of you (and how long can anyone go on talking without a you?) is akin to the other sort of exhaustion everyone seems to have now: a malaise in which nothing exists in its own right, but has become the proxy of some other set of weapons or wearisome regime. Nothing can stay and only a lack of punctuation can testify to our knowledge of this rootlessness:

Lay down
Your cherry bright

You know how to make an asshole
With your fingers touching?
That's cherry-picking stance

But is that a lovebird in the corner of the room, in the many-storied cage? You go up close to see.           

Filter green
The color made by birds
Under time
They cull it from the aerie

It's made of papier mâché; there's a hole in the side where something was once lodged. A message, you seem to know. Who was it you kissed at midnight? Who are you waiting to kiss now? If anyone turns the lights out, what will happen?

the oracles are dumm
why are they so dumb             

The redheaded man you were admiring now seems repulsive. Why did he say that? Why are you still here? Because occasionally there is a flare --

Robins and cardinals blurt between furrows of storm.
A way energy has of being. It can caress itself.

But then whoever was speaking, half-singing, takes a drink and quits.

Everyone in the room is white. How did that happen? Has that always been true? You are provoked by the girl with the bindi and the blissed-out look, by the guys with bad haircuts standing near her and bantering:

I know you're in pain.
You're in pain.
If you're in no condition to consent,
it's rape.
If you're incapable of intoxication or unconsciousness
I still shouldn't rape you, system.

What is allowable, the conversation often boils down to, what can an overeducated overprivileged underpaid person ask or do? If you are standing on the shoulders of murderers, if you are speaking the language of "progress," are you allowed to enjoy your gin and tonic? And somehow even this conversation becomes foreplay. The men are taking out and stroking their privilege and their abnegation of it simultaneously. The women are sipping and exhaling their mothers' money (their mothers' fathers' money) out the third-floor apartment window, making eyes at delivery men so far below they'll never need to find out what anyone wants to fuck them for.

What if you were simply sinking into a marsh and encountered an arm near your arm, and you found it very beautiful in that flash. There was nothing about should or should not in that quicksand, you had time only to consent to being moved by the motion of someone else. What if that were now?

The first
word on the yellow page is to be unctuous

What did it say inside the lovebird? Ask someone. Ask the woman with the Parmigianino neck, she looks like she knows.


Not sure you heard right, you lean closer.

"BIRDPILE" in flight? or
grounded (dead)?

She nods. So much architecture exists to make this happen, lovely caressable bridge tendons and long open spaces.

brutally dragged in.

She confides, and you notice the cocktail ring on her middle finger, surrogate for another familiar weight. What am I going to do with my first wedding ring? Give it to my daughter when she turns sixteen.

The hostess, in an emerald green ball gown, cannot enter her own narrow sunroom, where talk of socialism and study abroad predominates. Instead she stands in the doorway and murmurs to whoever can hear,           

            Birdsong made the sun come up
            and I will love you with this poem.

How close to dawn is it? Where is the girl in the peacock eyeliner? You take your turn as other, someone whispers. The music's gone off.

If you understand
away and home, the pleasure of refrain,
let me make you feel as if meaning.

The conversation can circle toward sex, then it can absolutely be about sex, without actually being sexual. In my head, beloved.

But if you can find your way to the kitchen -- later, when someone's found the Joanna Newsom behind the hostess's ex's abandoned rolltop desk, when the drink in your hand is two inches of pink sunrise (a melted Stoli Razberi) -- the hostess will have tossed off her crinoline, leaving a crumpled puff in one corner, herself in a green lake of straight-hanging silk in the other, and she will be crooning the story of It again:

La Mer shop at Heathrow, Brosie two years old fascinated by the
aquarium. He's fine, woman said, he's occupied, do you want a
facial? / I can't afford anything here. / That's OK, I'm not busy.
Gentle pressure near tearducts—eyes shut, spilt: Am leaving him. /

What do you do? What, that you came in with, do you still have to bestow? And just as you are unpinning your great-aunt's brooch from your tattered fichu, she looks up and smiles:

The gold light is blown off the grass. Soft green elbow fade. Every noon
in my body is naked and loved.

The body. You have the body. You have your own body in motion, to give and to feel.

All quotations (including italicized ones) come from Catherine Wagner's Nervous Device.