The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

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APR 2019 Issue

from The Lake

Someone casually says The Earth is menopausal and I trip
over myself this is so accurate— Hot flashes is first attested
to 1887—This same year in Montana, the largest snowflakes
are recorded at 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick—I can’t
conceive of this—It is exactly one century before I am born—
In Anaheim a white cop shoots at Latino children and “no one
is wounded”—Two Latino children are arrested—White cop faces
no charges—The year is 2017—A grounding phrase to mark
time—My one-month-old nephew goes to the beach—His
sandy debut—I have already started this series but resist
telling my brother that I wrote his newborn into a poem about
depletion—One translation of menopause is “moon pause,”
another, change of life—I find a note in my phone,
I owe you money, followed by The boyfriend of my
girlfriend’s best friend’s sister
—At the point of this writing,
C.D. Wright has been dead over a year— Poetry is nothing if not
equipped for crisis
, she assures from below—We watch in horror
from the terrace as two young men stand on the lake in seventy
degree temperature—I cannot call them morons because maybe
I am the one who cannot comprehend solid structures bound
by freeze and warmth simultaneously—What holds any structure
together but the word that names its shape—The apartment
I occupy does not have a kitchen table, for example, and so I pile
my dinner plate on top of a stack of books—How are books not
a table—It snowed three inches overnight after seventy-degree
weather for many days—Bolivia alone has burned millions of acres
of critical forest to grow soybeans to export as animal feed
as commodities trade in America, for hamburgers, chicken, pork—
I do not feel equipped for crisis—In 2030 there will be no forest left—
What holds any structure together but the world that names its shape—
Is there a song you sing especially well—Have you considered this—

Rapid analysis of climate change requires people to discuss
weather patterns—The patterns are at risk of misinformation,
so require shared grief—The other night I writhed in bed,
food poisoning was it, the nausea mounting with a shattering
thunderstorm—A February downpour in Madison should be
unheard of, should be the sublime whir of snow—I retched over
a toilet, spilling everything but myself, the misinformation
of nightly weather, the sleeping body stuck to sheets, the night
the dreams the wind the body helplessly together—In the morning
ground covered in steam and snow, forty degrees colder—My
mind, a fever wrestling formulas into substrata into law—
Recurring thought of a man breaking into my room—The expression
beating me senseless oddly liberates, suspends world order—
He stabs, bludgeons, when I try to run he jumps over the
stairwell railing blade down and drags me to floor—I spring
to seat, do not ask for mercy—Ask what have I done in this life—
My cheeks still firm, sallow as the bile despite—These are not
dreams but fantasies—In another thought a former partner
leaves marks when he slaps me so that someone notices and
there, in that moment, my behavior noted without language—
Today it is March third, I forgot to pay my lease on the first—
Pay it now—Throw my phone against the wall in white anger—
I have never had white anger—Blood striping my arm from raking
nails across in desperate sleep—I want to talk about today’s
weather—Cold as it might be for the eastern seaboard, but not
the Midwest—I tell my therapist about these thoughts and she
reminds me the violence that happened to me—Cosmic to hear it
drummed up in reference—Haven’t I already become the actress
playing me, to be present and removed the way great pain thuds
within its warren—Not exactly a memory—The shadow behind it—
And in my dream this morning, I am woken by phone buzzing,
but a fruit fly had brought a segment of grapefruit to my face,
asked if I were its star and repeated And the sun goes to die on the
sun and the sun goes to die on the sun and the sun goes to die on the sun

You’re only revising the patriarchal order, not dismantling it,
I say to M about woman breaking down other woman—With M
in Chicago, a foldout bed and a stocky Pitbull, unable to sleep
and so read about the secret pandemic of US-approved chemicals—
manganese and chlorpyrifos and tetrachloroethylene and toluene
and DDT and arsenic and polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury
and ethanol and lead and fluoride—I learn how the brain develops,
the chemicals that kill brain cells in development, the brain cells
that stop developing by the age of two— I do not sleep for sleep is like
the wind and trees amazed
—I drank a seltzer before bed, the word
manganese gorgeous and tinny on my tongue—M and I talk about
recall failure this morning, B, in her sixties, says her trouble is
nouns, and I think who is not troubled by nouns—We pretend
we do not use the Earth by applying minimalism—Stark unnatural
white and bright cold steel—The problem is oxygen, too much
in mammals and too little in the ocean—The trace mineral for
living organisms becomes a neurotoxin when exposed in large
amounts—Yesterday the president rolled back stringent federal
regulations on vehicle pollution—Says too the pipelines must use
steel—We are nothing if not a series of wrong chemicals—Language
too contains its atomic structure—Manganese, from Latin,
magnesia , unknown in the modern sense, from this we get magnet,
another contemporary translation: flesh magnet, for how strong
it stuck to the lips—Why did we put magnesium oxide to our mouth—
We stare at fish at the aquarium and M asks about faces, specifically
why faces should be notably significant—I don’t know how to fill
spaces with anything but guilt—Isn’t that a Jewish thing, I’m told,
Richard Spencer who used our language to say we are not people,
soulless golem , what is that—I tell M I’m in a confessional mood,
she says she is out of body—Sleepless I zoom in on x-rays
of heat spots on the in-utero brain, in control groups and in non—
Heat spots on the living ocean do smack of bad MRI results—
Magnetic resonance imaging, there it is again, permuting
doom—The language of the planet is a woman, why it is
we do not believe her even as she kills her own—

Last night I sat on a bar stool and told a man
named Michael that my name was Michael—
I woke up as myself, with no better reason
to be myself—How easy it is for the lake to make
sound—The trees sing—I have not walked much
this morning, the day already broken in my throat—
See, my routine: Boil water, think of Chilean
suffering, humans suffering the impact of humans—
First so much fire that we cannot breathe, then so much
water that we cannot drink
1—See, my routine: Boil
water, stain water with grounds, let it build
a tar foam, plunge it down, make it a cup—Call it
Joe, as I am Michael—I can do nothing against
the Santiago death winds, sip from my yellow mug
on my yellow throw in my pretty, pretty house—
Catastrophe a background color—When I wanted
to die, it was easy—I am doing it now—I crack
an egg into a bowl—Outside, an opossum heaped
in the kind of fate we expect for such creatures—
The yolk foul with old bristled fur—How it is
I still crave beauty in rot—I break the yolk
and pour it into the ritual—What I want to say:
Of the past, the car drives away mute as any
picture toward and far from what I know—
A man sits outside the frame and I understand
time to be speaking, wet texture filling with
mouth—I have no respect for what is said
of survival—I am thinking of the storm ahead,
peach bright, so goddamn beautiful I forget
there is a better idea in the future, the future
that promises only that it will never arrive—
It’s what we want, isn’t it, a rupture ahead
that has no name for what it will do—

The problem is that the daily record is artless—is feminine—
the blood on the crotch is blood on the crotch—the diary
a day clot—I attempt constantly to start over—monkeybread,
who’d have thunk it would taste that way—a movie about
two journalists breaking Watergate—today is Easter, as of
today, the United States has killed over 250 Syrians alone
in the month of March, more than any other terrorist group—
they exit in a dead march, the final queue in King Lear, why
the image always sticks—the issue is how facts eke through
sunlight—no way to avoid this—artlessness as critique for the
way we must live minute after minute—the launch of war,
that we sit on the edge of the world, we must rely on love,
isn’t that what one does—but it has never been like this before,
it is never quite like this—why the daily record terrifies so
entirely, its unique hold on time minimizes public record
somehow—like right now I am listening to the new Future
Islands—I am thinking about a young buff Dustin Hoffman—
the world quakes and I don’t know it over the speaker blasts—
how easy it is to be inside oneself without entering the body—
I’ve become conscious of my present condition, my
inability to manage a pretty image, maneuver technique into
a siren, the way the word alarum manages to be both pitch
and beauty stamp—alarum, alizarin, an acrylic I loved only
in how I uttered it—I spread it on a canvas thick as a lie,
used it to make a dark sky darker—see, we need the archaism
of red, don’t we—so here is an image—a wild turkey crossed
a busy road right in front of my car and I thought to get out,
gaze at the slow waddle, they really do waddle—what are we
to do with the animal that does not walk in the immanence
of death, that does not smell the copper dollar frenzied in
burning gas—where is the mercy in geography—what do
you remember about the day—and did you drive around
the turkey too idiotic to be vulnerable—I have no idea
what a turkey smells like alive—I stayed in my car a long time—

Great Barrier Reef now 80 percent dead now I declare
I want to quit the I, the verbs that keep I fed—The
budget cuts will end us, fragile federal research infra
structure already buckling—Portraiture of death, limp
wrists pointing upward toward carbon-heavy winds—
It isn’t clear when it will happen, but the next generation
sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it, why I stare and stare
at my nephew, his gray eyes in the gunmetal future,
the paradox of firm healthy glow—What does it mean—
I tell A that the word And has roots in both directions,
that it suggests a before (ante) as it also means next, that its
etymological record begins in the fifteenth century—I
ask A what we did with things before and , how did we
navigate objects if we could not own up to a center—
Object of property—How did we see ourselves intermixed
with the elements if the combination of things could not
precede us—And I think about this because scientists
describe coral in the Great Barrier Reef as unique farmers,
polyps form colonies and a limestone scaffolding on which
to live—The order of things relates directly to the kind
of home we are able to make—Reef, as from Old Norse,
to mean “rib”—Gnostic shadows in the fecundity of
absence—Human stain not yet its seepage but a theory
of influence—The rib ripped from the bosom of a man
and thrown into the sea as a godless ridge—Origin story
in which the reef contains the organisms that colonize
material to make the reef—The secret seems now that
the only story that survives is the story of the man
as he ends on the surface he refused to make—What we
did not do this time or any other is rely on our own rib
to thrive—Colors bleach, the planes imprint the white
scar, fried limestone, bone crooked in the sand, ruined
infant brain, the potential for growth yet one more
opportunity, a recapitulation of events forwarded only
by economic function, hair in the throat lost in the sea,
the child grows bigger and and and and and and and and

  1. Ariel Dorfman. March 31, 2017.


Natalie Eilbert

Natalie Eilbert is the author of Indictus, winner of the 2016 Noemi Poetry Prize, and Swan Feast, from Bloof Books. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in POETRY, The New Yorker, Black Warrior Review, and many others. She is the founding editor of The Atlas Review and TAR Chapbook Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

All Issues