Poetry Focus: 3 New Poems by Kathleen Ossip
Eyewear is thoroughly chuffed to feature the superb American poet Kathleen Ossip (pictured above) this rainy London Friday, by showcasing three new poems of hers. Ossip is the author of The Cold War, which was named one of Publishers Weekly's best books of 2011; The Search Engine, which was selected by Derek Walcott for the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize; and Cinephrastics, a chapbook of movie poems. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, American Poetry Review, the Washington Post, The Believer, Fence, and Poetry Review (London). She teaches at The New School and online for The Poetry School in London. She was a co-founder of LIT (the journal of the graduate writing program at The New School), and she's the poetry editor of Women's Studies Quarterly. She has received a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
3 Poems from “The Great Man”
Here I come with my magnifying glass,
a supple performance, a thought disorder. Around your x, y boils and will die in camera’s sound. Democrats, Republicans all a-growing, all undergoing the re-dark re-nights they’d thought never to have—the supporting conditions for newness ever present when the baths of ruin spill—each mind saturated and strange. But can they imagine that in some sense they go as they please? When I wanted a revolution, I discovered fun, tendered with a bite; beneath the bite a verve of oneness. During the eternal round of mind-states, when to live, why to do paddled: there were we, oarless. A lull in the talk, cold spot in a lake, leads to failure, failure as a subject, and we need to know that we exist,
I think. Closed system here, like a beast unlicking itself. But the tragedy (she wants us to live sincerely and she wants us to make fresh art) backs away from their clearly happy faces. Lateral shifting can cause all kinds of problems, says the Great Man outlining the Next War. In laying down your weapons, do not but keep them near. The system costs and costs but teaches at last.
The Great Man puts $5000
in a box by the bed. His nuclear philosophy is everywhere, his supersleaze drawl a horrifying but not unheard of crime. A petal, a temple, a knife, a figurine—all these would have said affection. Why did he have to use a case with a lock? A crude or boorish person, a potbelly? He makes me cry, writes checks. My ipod his distraction. He won’t let me forget the time I slid down his “hill.”
In my dream, a person with indeterminate clothing strolls at his right side, a child at his left. He has too much ambition and not enough skill. Or too much skill, not enough inspiration. Wasted potential, whispers Tragedy; Comedy weighs in with all his lesser flaws—both stone masks intent on him. I wake up and notice the “button” on the “toaster,” the little bit extra, and the smell of crap on the avenue.
Leave the money, take the box.
Take the money, leave the box.
Take the money, take the box.
From here I will fall into a purity.
Thank you for reading this scar.
The Great Man has one Great Skill:
burying. And I tired of his hinting, his spume.
Fingering his seam in Kabul, my pointer snags a shred of polyester. What you had here was a human being, a bright spirit, who could, I knew, have been good. Care should have cushioned every blow, but his parents found him dreary, not to be labored over. And so he was spiritual in the service of $ % € ¥ ®.
I have something in the case for you. Open it. But there’s no way to open it. The stars, the sun and the earth will die, evaporating into radiation, and there will be no light, only a soup of subatomic particles and that case, still unopened. Kindness is too much to ask, exuberance seldom rates a statue.
Undoing the zipper in Kirkuk, I ordered a decaf green tea and admired the modesty of the aluminum pitcher of cream. Focus is an overrated skill.
The colors on the weather map inched westerly, polyesterly. I couldn’t see the next instant, but he could. He buried it. Kindly he gives me permission, drop by drop.
Es popular. Es verde. Es hermosa. Wrong language, but he tried.
all poem published online with permission of the author; copyright Kathleen Ossip 2013.