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J A C K E T  # 5
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2 Poems from


      by Alice Notley
the jewels speak, the different-colored
stones on a string -- if I
weigh them they speak. They're
a poem I guess; but they say
who the murderers are, as well.
The murderers pull guns on "us":
so what's the point of the jewels? I mean
if the murderers just shoot us because
we know who they are
They are long-haired blonde trash
out of the movies.
The board the cave wall's
got a message on it:
"Who is 'I' please?" I ask the cave air.
Sound of wind. Real wind.
I am an orthodox religion
in a big black coat, with pockets, at night
what would be the point of all my qualities
if a certain 'you' died
oh there might be a point again
after all the suffering
I am about to be
a lesbian, in another dream
the meaning of that? it's meaningless
a great black night, don't You see, I wander lost
amid hotels and market
s, stalls which sell dead things;
if you're young it's glamorous, sci-fi -- if old, not.
Story is
one way to interpret experience.
What's really happening? Not
story. Not
participles. Not sentences
made from unexpected parts.
There's the cave door
something like
caves really happening? Tableaux?
Oh I
don't know.
It's Anne Francis, the B actress, tending bar
with her blonde hair dyed brunette.
Did she once play the female detective Honey West?
She was certainly in Bad Day at Black Rock.
I think, she isn't attractive but
must be photogenic -- her
face is bumpy, somewhat neanderthal. Yet
protruberances of forehead, jaw, flatten on camera --
story-like: awkwardnesses disappear
she comes to fit the description, the camera.
What is this cave? Ask it.
"Old," it says, "But old is numbers.
Nothing else."
Hardwill says: "When we
are working actors, w
e are participating
in society, at that moment,
so are non-transcendent. This is good."
"Why? How?" the soul says, "I don't think so."
I'm the soul today. The soul is right.
I'm in a non-economic moment.
If no one knows more than I do.
Not even a group of You. . .
toilets, and leaking, streams of water
from above, all night
onto apartment's
stained carpet and pretense of history. . .
all pretenses seem to dissolve in the caves
though they often reappear again, lower, in dreams
out of time and washed about.
Who's pretentious? Anyone
enters pretense an emotion, the excitement
of believing what she or he says.
Building a new house
another one. Wow. I mean
she's telling a new kind of story. It's so
hallucinatory. apocalyptic. What progress.
Society is
a huge
I can extract myself
from that emotion
for moments.
Going to give poetry reading, I'm supposed to be late
in long blue lowcut 50s evening dress
Marilyn Monroe comes to get me at nine -- I'm
late enough but won't be as late as she used to be.
She's wistful about my success
helps me with my neckline, fixes its lace of wire rings
so only one ring dangles down "undone. . ."
Absolutely inside The Emotion.
Not sure whether one attempts life outside it (The Emotion)
becomes involved in changing it, or both variously
don't want to
live inside it, must etc, sticky love
and animal obligation?
many animals are ghosts now
in the caves today
the pistil of a calla lily may be speaking:
The caves are membranes breathing, huge
petals the sun breaks through
soft skin greenhouse.
Must I experience total
collapse of psychic hierarchy?
Will the caves stop being caves?
Leveling. Everything's leveling.
Self-important? What's really that
is this
outmoded trivial talk of revolution
the poet's wistful desire
to shed a lot of blood. Disgusting,
and irrelevant now.
Memory of dream of rock star blends with memory of newscast,
Liberian children with rifles
"Boys make good soldiers": their commandant
"If I tell them to cut out the eyes, they do"
But a boy interviewed apart from him says,
"If I don't do what he tells me to he'll kill me."
What country did they buy those
guns from? U.S.? England? Russia? Maybe France -- Iran -- Israel. . .
My friends from high school
carry handguns now. I mean the women
according to a
friend, a couple of them
brought their guns to our thirtieth
class reunion.
It all topples when I'm alone and bored
To promulgate "revolution" everyone
should spend more time alone
and bored.
Your eyes, when they haven't been cut out
cannot be
they are Yours
anyway the "print paradigm is outmoded" I'm told.
The Liberian boy, being a boy, is hoping for a future.
The people who discuss
are proud participants
to be alive in exciting times
transition for boy a computer
we can give him in the year 2010 or a job in
a glass eye factory --
future glass eyes that can see
that can watch television --
eyes perfected by
Vicom or MGM.
Sudden wave of, feeling what
was it, almost scent of
being high on Something 25, 26 years ago --
speed maybe. That was great
useless, destructive, irrelevant, demonic
What's different from that? Anywhere?
I won't ever do it again.
I'm supposed to help make all the other
people, near and far and very far, in the
whole world, happy. Oh I will. Because
everyone's so deserving.
I can barely see Mitch's face any more
I'm suffering loss of character
I lost Soulgirl, as character, a long time ago
simply became her.
"Have you met the psych et po feminists?
You sound just like them."
I'm on my own, bored, obnoxious
out of touch with the premier print paradigm people
of my time.
                      This must be Paradise, Paris
not Liberia.
Clear enough
Clear enough
Who ever
Wanted to be anywhere
But here but. . .
Clear enough
Clear enough
Who ever
Wanted to be anywhere
But here but. . .
                     (repeat endlessly)
Douglas Oliver and Alice Notley
Douglas Oliver
    and Alice Notley
Alice Notley is the author of 25 books. Her latest is Mysteries of Small Houses (Penguin, 1998.) Two other recent books are The Descent of Alette (Penguin, 1996) and Selected Poems of Alice Notley (Talisman, 1993.) She lives in Paris with Douglas Oliver, with whom she edits Gare du Nord.


Copyright © Alice Notley and Jacket magazine 1998
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