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Alice Notley

Three poems

In the Circuit

In the circuit
of shades and transit; in the circuit
of shadowed transit whose
paths are sensitive,
patterned, and rational as
if they knew;

When her love felt cold, but
That design existent almost without me,
in my free instant
But you’ll never know about her;

While I slept
affecting my most obscure
from the beginning,
when I, you say, followed him;
Crossing over into
neither he nor you could guess;
from my youth’s first risks
and still not articulate or conscious;

I’ve now spoken for many who
spoke to me
We’ve changed what we could;
But if you don’t know you were fated
can you know how light you are?

I’m still going barefoot and so are my dead

My Lady Shadow

My lady shadow I’m stumbling away
opening locks. Did you think
I wanted to burn on a different
wheel? She turns her head to the left
and will have no name. She asserts not speaking.
I’m going from this hallway I reply.

A harmonica can burn you too
any good can wound. Leaving, I’ll miss you
from whom I can accept nothing angelic
a fixed vow precluding illusions
I don’t know who I can be, but
you can’t give it to me. Yet I’m talking to you.

Are you still yourself, he’d said sarcastically
knowing I was not. Can I glimpse you
abandoning everything yours except that
little sound, surrounding your wordless core?
I’ve caused much to happen to me
but was never quite that woman. I thought of you

not a fetish; a shade of stone, like myself
I know your texture — Are you still yourself? he said —
You are, not me.
                                     Facing well the ladyless
path — or is the other a woman we both
don’t  recognize? And wheel, not desire,
purely to turn and convey me. Left, I’m the way.

The Main Offense

It could be in one’s flesh, probably is.
Whatever you are, as born; as well as
the disease you might carry.

String me along, anyway, in case.
You might get something out of me
I could be like your bag man,
if you use my words right. Poetry
can justify you too.

I went up to him and put my hand
on his chest. Why bother healing
such a huge abscess? Do we have
anything in common? You are a
mean bastard; I just write things down.

They made me up for the part
But I grew both into and away from it.
    If there’s
something you can’t reach, I used to try
to do it. Now I don’t know where my
primal loyalty lies. I think it
can’t lie. I kind of wish you were dead,
but that’s death, isn’t it?

Alice Notley photo

Alice Notley

Alice Notley has published many poetry books including, recently, The Descent of Alette, Mysteries of Small Houses and disobedience, all from Penguin Poets. An earlier collection from Kulchur Foundation in 1981, Waltzing Matilda, was re-issued in 2003 by Faux Press. Alice has a book of essays, Coming After, forthcoming from University of Michigan Press in Spring, 2005. Working with her sons, poets Anselm and Edmund Berrigan, she has edited The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, due out in the fall of 2005. In 2002 she was the co-winner (with Christian Bok) of the Griffin Poetry Prize. Alice Notley lives in Paris, France.

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