Four Poems by Jennifer Moxley
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I wrote this happiness myself.
I chose this man, this house, this cat.
I put my shadow twin
upstairs in the leaf of a
mediocre book I thought
never to open again. I felt grateful.
Upstairs there were many
photo albums with gluey pages
and yellowed Mylar in between
which Poloroids had come
unstuck. In them happy children
pitch tents, watch TV,
open presents, and smile before
homemade birthday cakes.
Had I known them? I knew
that I was not missing them
or missing out and thus my heart
was full. But, I thought,
should phosphorus mix
with potassium chlorate
and hit the gaseous air,
this man, this house, this cat,
be lost, what then? They’d join
the many other dead
whose memories I tend.
I cannot miss. My heart is full
and grateful. But, I thought,
while I still could, should
neuro plaques and tangles
knot my mind my heart would
empty and all of this would
cease to be. I could not miss it,
nor even this, my spark.
UP TO THE MINUTE
The violence of the human world does not scale.
Digits thumb up the glow until the clip, the feed, the ad
Shoot through the eyes into the head. The backed-up
Neglected rooms shake with new poisons, information, and numbers.
The unfilmed quiet that follows the rifle. Heads: of state, severed,
In a mass, rivers of adrenaline compelled by violence,
Human, worldly, tearful or gleeful, all is turned to rage.
The old—never again will there be such as are now.
The wind knows what to do. The snow. The little life
That’s lost beneath the Earth’s benevolent death.
As we try to sleep the screened-in head ignites
With endless clips of violence. This is our truth?
What’s muffled: some thought about hope
In an old book that somebody by candlelight
Wrote the moment she knew all hope was gone.
Crumpled youth can still laugh at death, but any age
Can apply this mortal urge to resignation, or righteousness
To create more bright violence. Here is belief?
Humans are lit up: we can know all and see everything,
Face the hatred and be mistaken for brave, raise our
Convulsive fist in an attempt to conform to new
Scales of violence reflected off these surfaces,
Distracting us from other worlds, inward, or yet begun.
One onus on an empty calendar
Penciled in at three o’clock
Is more blood-tick to the soul’s good humor
Than a whole day eaten of work.
My consort is in concert with the waves
He dolphins through the seaweed ropes, salted
With flesh-memory of his youthful days
The purpose just existence, exalted
Body set free from calendared hours,
The ransomed life, the hourglass sandstorm.
To my consort it seems the sea authors
A form he must follow, he must perform
An ichthyan act: robbed of oxygen
That he might feel dissolved in that kindless
Edge of presence, which lives within the lexicon
Of ear—a breath-robbed tide-dandled blindness
In which my consort counts the beats, five-fold
Iambic “deaths” recoiled from ancient shore,
Five-fold the poet’s dance to patterns old.
A radiation from the cosmic core
Attracts the man with whom my fate’s attached,
His life-trace succumbs to the sea’s deep-rhyme
When up from primordial death he’s snatched
By that rhythm moon-gripped, element sublime.
Jennifer Moxley was raised in San Diego, California. She studied literature and writing at UC San Diego and the University of Rhode Island and received her M.F.A. from Brown University in 1994. She is the author of six books of poetry, a book of essays, and a memoir. In addition, she has translated three books from the French. Her poems have been included in two Norton Anthologies, Postmodern American Poetry and American Hybrid. Her book The Sense Record (2002) was picked as one of the five best poetry books of the year by both Stride magazine (UK) and Small Press Traffic (US). Her poem “Behind the Orbits” was included by Robert Creeley in The Best American Poetry 2002. In 2005 she was granted the Lynda Hull Poetry Award from Denver Quarterly, and in 2015 her book The Open Secret was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams award. She is Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of Maine.