Three Poems by Laura Neuman
storm clouds will poison you
Chains of those flowers will forever connect whatever you’re reading with what I’m reading, what you taste with this next thought. That’s a culture, conjoined. The animals don’t like this. They tear at my shirt, slobber and tell me material is caring more about what’s present than what’s not. This isn’t always possible, but we can try.
Say you first learn about sickness while looking at the sky. This image creates a fold in you, since it will from now on function both as a central cloud around which other emotional vocabulary can cluster, and will also become its own unit within that vocabulary, combinable with other units in order to build further structures for thinking/on which to get closer to the sky. Watching from below, we can see that this person will never again see the sky. It’s too much a part of how you think and know now.
Some child wonders, but what about the clouds? What clouds? I want in on this cloud that’s in you clustering. The animals like that okay. They send me a care package: tick repellent, spicy tea and time in the form of dirty photos you took of yourself before we met. I forget to read the label, accidentally poison myself with the substance that isn’t meant for…skin?
Stop the Flowers
As a message passes from the abdominal region into an object of social exchange, time also passes, a whole season. The words that carried it get so wet, they leak, arrive illegibly. Don’t worry, you’ll soon figure out how to read it. After all, you gave up five other subject positions in order to learn to read the body that used to be your only. –Keep living in, you say, and –That’s a lot of pressure. What happened to reading for sport?
Where a message leaks, a lot of sports. We play them in the wind, next to the daffodils. Instead of a ball we are passing a book, it is reading your palm, telling you what to erase next. There are a lot of us here gathered, but does this book, the one you are so busy not becoming, the one that tells you 101 Ways to Keep Breathing, Synthetic Interior, does it include the suggestion, realize you and some book are a single organism? You could do this, do and then instead of snow, it’s pollen from the flowers. Stop them!
We arrive too late, at the end of the sentence, in the place our hands predicted, a field in another season. You are already sneezing. There’s wind, it’s wild, some yellow bobbing heads, the field a sea, getting difficult to stay together, inside the sea with its syntactical yellow posturing. I pick D: There is no single organism. This page is a membrane. There is a lot of mucus on this page.
new human substance
Towards those persons and objects that will never disappear into words, I feel a tenderness difficult to explain. Every time you see or hear the ocean in my voice, tearing the page, just a little. Like this? Yeah.
We know our terror is too much, so we keep calling people to tell them about it on the phone. On the phone, it sounds like something you’d want to tussle, like daffodils in a field whispering. But even when safe in our beds—you laugh, kicking your feet— every act of tenderness we attempt can only be received as something more brutal, like S and M but in reverse. I want to tell you things that make you catch your breath, or stimulate your organs, foster new white blood cells, if you need white blood cells, make for shinier teeth and whiter hair. Exactly, says the wolf, like the wolf!
Instead, my breath on your cheek can only be a catalyst for pain, decorated, pain with spikes, frosting. We once talked of bathing in frosting. Instead, when I buy a fountain, you buy a fountain, and when I write “what if it isn’t that the materials are damaged” you become the collective organism I’ve been seeking to know.
We can read towards Collective Human You in pieces: first the chest hair, purple, untangling it, then soothing the backache with some Ben-gay, then pouring another whiskey, massing your temples before I show you the next really beautiful and challenging thing. If I could just get there myself, to the next wild and clear presence, could lead you after, like a little child going out into the forest at night, forgetting that we are the forest, forgetting that we are the wolf—forgetting is what we do.
Laura Neuman‘s work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Tinge, OmniVerse, Solicitations and Come Hear! She/xe was a longtime co-conspirator & performer with The Workshop for Potential Movement, and, as of recently, lives in Seattle.