The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2017

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FEB 2017 Issue





My iPad keeps coaxing me to ask it a question,
but I refuse. I’m not comfortable seeking advice
from or giving orders to – a what? A program?
The class difference between us embarrasses me.
I’ve never had a secretary or a cleaning service.
If I had sex with a robot, I would probably worry
that I seem too mechanical.












Everything in my life seems vague and elusive, yet for the most part,
my sense of impermanence has turned out to be rather solid.

How else is it possible that for almost forty years I’ve been teaching –
sitting in any number of nondescript rooms, in front of blackboards
I never write on, exchanging pleasantries with the students as if we were
simply passing time by talking about books we happen to be reading.

I think of all their names, the papers they’ve handed me, the papers
I’ve handed back, and together we form a current – a kind of river
that has drawn me – drawn us – forward towards I’m not sure what.

Perhaps the larger ocean of language itself.









                        for Vincent Katz


A myth is more insistent
than a rumor.

It has a thick skin
like the atmosphere
of a planet.

I’ve known Saturn’s
cold shoulder.

Neptune and Vulcan’s
deluge and volcano –

the watery fire
of my father’s temper
meant to be.

Giddy Venus.
Jupiter, always ready
to place a bet.

Gemini’s good and evil twins
gadding about the forest

one can enter from any country,
any century -- spread out over time.

I’ve seen how these old gods operate,

push and pull us
this way and that.

Though distant, they are not dead –

still whisper inaudible
but unmistakable
words of warning and good cheer.









The poem keeps retreating
further and further

from global markets
and technological progress.

It claims to require
more privacy --

a certain semiotic

grottos where its words
can be enshrined

in hermeneutic headdress
and opalescent ambiance.

Backlit. Recessed.










I write to impersonate words and give them a more human quality.

I write so I can taste test a word for myself.

I write to discover what can only be said in the moment – because it is –
no matter how stupid or obvious that sounds.

I write because it’s an inexpensive habit – except in terms of time.

I write because I can’t sing.

I write to embellish facts.

I write to spite an old nun who punished me for telling the truth by having
me write “I will not tell lies” one hundred times.

I write because certain combinations of words really are magical.

I write to create a body of work.

I write to converse with the dead and pay my respects to the unborn.

I write to procrastinate and avoid not writing.





Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi is the author of many books including Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems, and most recently, The Intangibles, from Coffee House Press. She teaches at New York University and in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at The New School.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2017

All Issues