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Tenney Nathanson

Home on the Range (excerpt)


but counter-love vaguely work for you. a certain coolness withholding from our wagon an enormous Glacier, Panther against the Arctic ordeal of iron holes, forced and stumbled we were found
oxidized and beveled, whortled turtle of thought the trial gone cold. Notched dramaturgy sunk in the polar lake, howling fever of bears, but here sir saddle-shoes won’t help you. I bid three.
you two children been thing that you shouldn’t. you’ve been doing some nothing. whispered ‘poor kid,’ remember the whole thing away from home write home about, so ashamed. way down into the scared time white as a sheet, her eyeballs  
tracking your thought. is that the bag? no it’s not. peaches, pairs, two limes, limies, lumbering wolf-trot, what am I? beans and thinking
clutched tightly in a burned stranger. blue shirtwaist stood the stone in the racing bottle, flagging. beat loudly with his nearest police rushing up clearly thinking motherly soul was essentially the sidewalk, Officer Maguire
can you write the ticket? no more mind, no thinking, no plankton, just scared time white as a sheet her saddle-shoe eyeballs — I’m the bag.
I’m not so dumb. yourself shouldn’t very much Goddamit! sure, sure! get brass toes like this outside the hack boys, kiss his extraordinary industrialist.  It can be arranged dollars a month.  
where you are dead though it’s very still, just a little wind splaying the lateral light. poof. proof. thought’s rind.
clanging upon my heart end in the mud. the blue kingfisher dives — name, watermelons, nose, black mud over the drum-beat of Stupor Mundi   
old house flies, dust of the afternoon father said. is not at home     you please go away?’ the throat turned back, she came up the blond Negro like a curled claw. the linen-clad man a fat gallop planted stiffly, pretty and white. incorrigible hooves and within his mother the shaggy iron-gray eyes muffled by walls.  


I was knee. with his smile of my poor bed and conjugal fidelity, blankets without safety answer, if your departure is truth and truth is carry on inevitably. This here Fairy.
if your heart were heavy though. if you breathed it, slowly into it and down, and right down through it. my arm hurts a lot.
old friend Nero. He was a tyrant. boys. like a sewer their heads on the children the holy world. dainty and timely into a fine castle. on the table her chin, hands. groped quickly for his handkerchief in the air.
like that there’s so much of it truly endless, not cumulating, just undulating, ripples of the fading bang. thought rides on that, but, he said, as gratitude? nobody can do it, when I’m hungry I eat tired I sleep. wash your bowls.
a waking plover. or he who shall first see, above the wood, fine hazelnuts, blackberries, generous sorrels, the low and nestling nightfall waterfall for drowning a gust of wind
it’s supposed to be comic I remember but now it’s sad, granulating face thought shredding little fibers eased in wind, black wall alert and breathing
one morning Slug and a few of the boys got the wire up we went. thieving, jobbing, cigarettes, little black maids, orders, gather in the morning to see my nabs ride up bloody lovely the hollow of his Shorty.
which just comes and goes, pissing downwind. out there are spines and snakes, white cottontails, black wall of breath before nightfall once at the Mission we watched a snake climb up a palo verde after eggs, mother darting at it and squawking. effectively, the snake backed down, though I can’t remember how it did that. night is a bag the stars are breathing.
I don’t agree, of course, said my uncle. milk, we must make allowances. be too strict, he said. in adjustment of utterance mustache.
names of ledge and Orlick. His manner was stars and flowers of his surplice a cleric attaining the ledge quietly peered in through Trellis: from sea travel the bees bumbling one evening quilts heaved softly, the beat of breathing.


can recite poetry, want me to? Slug, good man of writing, heard and enjoyed his hands down at his garments, fruits of the free inflection. not everybody removed two hands.
gibbering comedy body, the dove takes off dropping from the wall, no wind now, I think the palo verde might be dying. large spacious quiet around eros ranting.
the apocryphal history of frequency relating to consumption of the eyeball, gastric juices, castrated foot surfaces meaning relish or mullet vitreous form of a swine, capable diagonal cock.
then nothing else. the phone bill, the broom stirring slightly in the new-formed breeze, they’re gathered around you not gathered but around you, not around you. heart-mind breathing.
cracking twigs I will fasten terrible good Fairy, of cheap factory man shoddy suit. no need for the pocket, treading blood-red thornsticks how will I know way? keep treading, made to willful march.
so air marches on to victory, leaving all mortals in the sky’s dust. meanwhile kids march in in costumes: a lion, an old lady, an I don’t know what.
writing another book, regretted all particular distinction, you understand — kick gang of thieving damn butts, the cuteness cantering up to get our orders for another man — asked skivvy? right over to bloody bullocks. you the false message?
no. repeal your eyes sir. unmisted water, whortled. day’s sure chime abounding.
Hurray, the bedroom. the drink is cool, the low hum of floor until I am ready sulkily, sombrero from an arm linked out into the passage, walked towards the door:
he sucked the halves in pumping, favor altogether enjoy yours — face, side of the mistake handed out by the mind, roaring out welcome! too generous! walked back two legs terrible fall with a pipe in him. put him back where we found your kind permission hiding my own.


and he answered her, sinking in softly to sink under it. He let the whole force of his will discover, against his cold contempt, gone, resistance fondling gratification, mouth ‘Nobody’s going to hurt     his cold blood again     sudden sweep of them  
into that space where doing and not doing fit like a glove, purloined hand found invisible.
high, a little, clear autumn flowers months hence — tiny, folded poignancy. unknown at any moment out of the
bulwark the cars, their lights in the November dusk, streamed over the bridge to the place in the nonexistent highway where once — years ago — that truck had fallen right through, dangling down like a toy, the dirty beautiful river sloshing behind it where later the old battleships were docked and displayed. But now it was gone, so the cars curved through detours in the dusk under its graying longevity, urban torque through which the million lights, against gathering dark, emerged and merged, there is no waterfall falling through it.
the great wheel was poised, remained the same. But it was so sweet gradually they began to wake up: fallen world, the very center of rapid agitation where knowledge and experience, huckster’s cries falling out of a burr, fecund earth buried like a seed in darkness, like the hard, shed rind discarded  
came back through that air to float as what they were: the smell of that street at night, the cars parked tightly like sleepers, the low moon grazing the rust-brown water-tower, up there someone moving across the deck of  a penthouse surrounded by plants, the cumbrous bus lumbering.
this same fragile language, deep innocence and peace, a little offering beside the brutal story, many lives beating against each exquisite barrier — as if she must wither. here her own existence was very quiet. always the swell must
lurk off the embankment just behind the vanished highway and the crumbling road that remained, tilled by lights, gathering and subsiding, flowing all the way out to the wide mouth of the city’s harbor where once — bright daylight then — the ferry came up close on a massive white liner, the QE2, ratcheting into Fellini’s night scene, the rowboats tossing softly under the liner’s dreamy flickering bulk, sleek movement through waves
the wind was roaring in the fire. like spun glass, having heard him speak, her face lit up from — leaning into the fire. life swayed violently up and down, with its wild, fierce hair. in the wind dark gate down and shattered, the bushes at the back, the mother’s face already in its     stems of the flowers, failing     he saw her seated, already away     the soul which connected way of speechless falling.  
made her shiver. she who shrank from the sound of broken     did it matter. flame had gone through her. outside the gate.  


it curved back, beautiful, exposed. a curious book, incoherent. pay a visit to loss, attracted instinctively by her laugh.  
through the is it philodendron (I don’t think so in Arizona) the paler green of the mesquite dangles and splays a little, not too shiny, variegated, delicate (thorns).  There’s no time.
His father allowed thick puzzled affection, having by nature a subtle, dark portion curiously attractive. remained the same face grew older he laughed — thing he could stick to.  
birds calling thump, breeze in the mesquite ching, ching-ching, knees not writhing, chest rising and falling sa suh, clock does its other thing, tock-tick. ergo.
night came, her girlhood and the past and the future. some days held  she felt herself open, till gradually plunged unconsciousness, the got to know the sun, insistent, very young, roused and sanctioned, great stone crushed.
bones, contoured muscles, structures of relaxed and sagging flesh: = face. Time moves through it. So there’s no time. mesquite branch shimmies a little: another time, softening down to the breeze moving slowly toward the palms, chirr, chirr — or big loud cactus wren: my time! throat!
being sensual, He acquired some contact with her open mouth. eyes and her     his veins palpitating. glittering, years, encroaching response filled with light, frightened and shaking. other side, keenly: eyes. He clapped. She was a warehouse?
No opens:
dark transit of flame, consumed, glowing; the darkness seemed to flow.
he seemed to sleep, unknowing. in a spell, black back of the common day, utter silence — languid, indifferent — slipped away. an unknown, overwhelming


world of objects. He believed there were few agents secured and washed with a scrupulous cleaning, the tin toilet signed into his bag, concealed undesirable plane parts, empty half-pint bottles, various buildings   morning would stoop
over the ratcheted sleepers, the cogs like a hand
between her breasts.  It’s a poem. he was entitled to a phone and person. open as if   laughed with her mouth   lawyer looking floor devil residence statement said This is self avoiding whatever steps would take care of private meetings with anyone.
hotel’s dim urgent need, French sun, gargoyle thought street, hump. over and again, torn sheet (torn up in bed like a drum)
to vomit quietly the house. watcha doin’? she whipped the girl had a willow switch paced up under way stood up he stood her head in her room collapsed across the mattress.
is it quiet now? do the waves of light roll over the water here too? No opens: no.
you said he was writing a room, winced, capsule in her mouth. a lot to write about, huh?
No opens: yes, no, maybe. stunned all the way down to the end, = stung. he crawled through the copse. No opens: whortled light stained and grainy.
who do I think took off your warm up   everybody. I heard the name somewhere, friend, absentmindedness, he’s wrong, sorry.
creeping up on him, it seemed the weight mummified the barren color of the ground, its yellow stone surface before wind made the mountains shimmer, glowing, twinkling. quick water, insupportable distance, an ordinary morning. his face did a foolish lurch, it meant he was near his torn temptation. he was sorry it had happened. fangs before him, thigh each time, a wind he could not feel.  


the silhouette of latticed light would pulsate, hanging like moss in the shape of a fountain.
light pours through the sieve, its name is water. I am a dram in a dream boat: bottoms up.
blazing siren, azure junk. wings, nearing the end
pupate into the body of water. in the present the third real life in rain
plunged into the No: there: dim damp pavements of Manhattan, dingy softness, no opens. my mother, we were buying a game.
had been a big writer. drifting in and out of sleep, crossed into a valley, head left in the shape of a tennis shoe, gradually became a conveyance.  
the turtle, yes. gray light over the hospital and gray pavement under it always, slumbering death shines, opens, no.
it was not a dream, but the present: he crawls in another system, desert, exchange ears.  
grows warm if damp. it’s raining without lights. intention separate, absolute tennis shoe ruling bludgeoned. lights out.

Photo of Tenney Nathanson

Other sections of Nathanson's book-length ‘Home on the Range’ have appeared in Antennae, Kenning, and the POG TWO anthology; more will be online soon in can we have our ball back?. Chax Press will publish a collection of earlier work, Erased Art, in the Fall of 2003. Whitman’s Presence (NYU, 1992) is still in print. Nathanson teaches American poetry at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he's a founding member and current president of the arts group POG (

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