(Resisting [Forgetting) Resisting]
The Japanese character forget 忘 stacks
the character for to die 亡 atop the character
for heart 心. Die over heart.
not detour over cinder
not mirage over maze
This is what I’m thinking when you tell me
to forget about what’s happened,
to put it down and walk away.
not hex over hunger
not suture over echo
You think of memory as iron lung, a metal womb
meant to be outgrown—its vacuum-born breath,
its speech granted on the exhale only.
not rogue wave over riot
not eclipse over Easter Island
You want me to lay the past down
the way a deer in late winter
lays its heavy antlers down.
not driftwood over doomsday clock
not flute over tiger
Listen: in all the mammals of the earth,
the antler is the fastest growing bone.
Not unlike the past.
not graveyard over graph paper
not nebula over refugee
Memory compared with forgetting—
the distinction is only temporal—as in
disappearing versus vanishing.
not refugee over nebula
not graph paper over graveyard
Tonight, reading Kelly, Hass, & Whitman,
if in the throes of forgetting, I might not
have noticed in each of three poems blackberries.
not tiger over flute
not doomsday clock over driftwood
Blackberries, found with millet in the stomach
of an Iron Age bog woman—
we have always eaten blackberries.
not Easter Island over eclipse
not riot over rogue wave
We have always eaten blackberries,
our tongues stained black as omens
we’ve always remembered or forgotten.
not echo over suture
not hunger over hex
Or, to be accurate, we’ve always remembered
and forgotten—a water strider’s frantic sketches
on the surface of a pond.
not maze over mirage
not cinder over detour
Is remembering a kind of mastery, or
is forgetting? You & I & the Japanese agree:
not heart over die
nothing under heart
nothing over die
Note: ‘Metal womb’ is a description of the iron lung used by Larry Alexander, polio patient, 1954.
How much sun
a plot of land gets
is a matter of slope
and aspect. Bruise
of blue thistle &
apocalypse of poppies
depend on ratios
of nature in cahoots
Thus the sun keeps
her bargain with
every living thing.
But gravity goes one
better, keeping faith
too with what isn’t
animate. Or so
says the sister
gets its grubby hands
on them, tears
are first perfect
spheres, and not
the famous shape
on the cheekbones
But tears left out
in the sun long
enough leave only
a trace of salt.
Or so says the sister-
in-law of Lot. No stray
equations, no looking
back at the patch
of blue blue thistle.
Everything is just
as it should be
is what has always
been said. At least
by prisoners of gravity,
falling from skull-shaped
hills onto hill-shaped
skulls, or so says
the sister of Iscariot.
Meanwhile planets spin
spherical as unfallen
tears, strung by ratios
of gravity and sun.
Is everything where
the numbers say
it should be? Everything
minus one. Or so says
the sister of Icarus.
a fog machine
the way wind draws Turing patterns in the desert sand
out of chaos less chaos
humans seeing human faces in tree bark & on toast
that everything is connected or nothing is:
that these are the same conceits
that fog machines are countable while fog is uncountable
that lightning strikes the planet an estimated 100 times per second
and is countable
chalk under an electron microscope all lacy spheres of ancient plankton skeleton
everything is wreckable but microscope in
telescope out &
while in the middle—here—a distinct lack of patterns
that ancient plankton didn’t observe their lacy skeletons
didn’t know anything about the white cliffs of Dover
in the meantime syntax
in the meantime wind
& fog through which we wander looking for a machine
The Logician’s Jigsaw
My favorite paper is graph paper—
it’s regularity, its possibilities.
My least favorite graph paper is the
When someone speaks of a map,
they also mean a key—not a key
like the legend of the map, but like
one of a ringful of ragged keys for
opening what is locked.
For example, the key might open a
legend—the kind made of words
spilling out of the past and into a
Your mouth a boat made of teeth.
Your teeth a row of small white
squares like graph paper cells.
I am besotted with geometry.
Graph paper is my hallelujah
palette. I draw curves that ever
approach the axis but never
Asymptomatic is the calendar, row
after row, page after page—a
proliferation of cells, a cancer of
Where is the map for the boat
made of teeth that is your mouth?
Everyone has heard the legend of
prisoners in their cells, passing
A calendar is a boat made of teeth.
Everyone knows the legend of
monks alone in their own cells
singing parallel hallelujahs.
A calendar is no map. It has no key
to open with its jagged broken
teeth what is locked.
A week is a row of small white
squares bare as prisoners’ cells.
I fall asleep in one locked cell and
wake in the next, but never again
do I wake next to you.
A legend from geometry: parallel
lines can never cross, not even
infinite parallel lines.
;If past/present/future, as physicists
suggest, exist all at once, why am I
locked in this monk’s bare cell of
A calendar is a theater of repeating
The decibels of one another’s
private hallelujahs are faint and
The logician requests that you put
these stanzas, these cells, into the
order that makes most sense to
you, or in the order that brings you
some small comfort, as you never
get to do with the calendar.
Dusk and cover. Hallelujah.
An Inventory of Vanishing Points
All the clocks in the house are talking to the rain,
sotto voce, so as not to give away their secrets.
All the people in the house, wiping at their tears,
think they have something in common with the rain.
They don’t. If rain was sentient, it wouldn’t get anxious
over doing versus being, feeling versus thinking;,
body/slash/mind. All the people in the house pat the widow
on her shoulder, thinking they have nothing in common
with clocks. Ha ha, the clocks are laughing, but
the people don’t notice, so busy are they, pretending
the arc of their own lives isn’t shaped like the arc
of civilization: myth, math, moth. Rust and the end
of ritual, except for rain’s impeccable ritual.
Before she was a widow, when they moved to Florida,
people used to tell her, “If you don’t like the weather,
wait a minute.” Now she knows this is what
the mountains say to one another regarding civilizations,
what the clock is saying to the rain about the people
and the house. But praise to the widow, to all people who,
taking the long view, can’t not see vanishing points, and still,
they look. There’s an artist in Japan who carves pearls
into tiny skulls. You can hold thirty or more, at one time
in your hand, like a god. Skulls as luminous as what you see
when you close your eyes and enter your own skull.
Note: The Japanese artist is Shinji Nakaba. http://s-nakaba.shop-pro.jp/
Jessica Goodfellow’s books are Whiteout (University of Alaska Press, 2017), Mendeleev’s Mandala (2015) and The Insomniac’s Weather Report (2014). Her work has appeared in Verse Daily, Motionpoems, and The Writer’s Almanac. She was awarded the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from the Beloit Poetry Journal, and has been a writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve. Recently her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Threepenny Review, The Cortland Review, The Southern Review, and Best American Poetry 2018. Jessica lives in Japan.