Three Poems by Marthe Reed

A room


there are amazements / you like to stray into and / my body’s only one of them
‒Rosmarie Waldrop


A room affords confinement, panopticon, its exotic formulae: a mode of detour and
“lawless imagination”

A gap widens leaving both air and breath gasping

She prepares his tea.  She promises an end.  What he always wanted.  Narrative dancing
in its own embrace

Silken draperies, damasked cushions, fresh dates elegant on a silver tray

Burton’s entertainments, or Shariyar’s.  Like a garden, a flowering page

An exchange

Codex of enchantments.  An armchair is a bed

“immoderate improbability”

She had read nearly everything.  Or imagined it


A book


A pinprick on a thigh / beginning / arrow or tooth / of possession.
‒Rosmarie Waldrop


Collected, corrupt: the parable of enumeration.  Zeynab’s murder by a monstrous king

Adding or subtracting at will, she vanishes

Or we do.  I am lost

Alice’s mirror, the narrative swallowing everything

Dislocates it
(counting the moments)
we are lost

A transformation requiring a cup or an inkwell, consensual alienation
We were there

We were drinking wine

History falters, or identity.  Exile demanding its own text.  Such treasures as the garden,
sacred trees, knowledge.  We are nearly there

The gap proliferates, circumnavigating itself.  Even death becoming mutable



Yasmin the Wise


A soft bed encircled with lines of diamonds and pearls and covered with satin
offered its invitation….


Somewhere the light arrives and she stops.  That “gust of dizziness”: a porous room

I am choking on details – each like bodies of silk, pure and restful like water

A gift that is not a gift

An imagined discourse: we were on the point of arrival

The instability of memory inverts the order of narration: her fishnet winding itself about
her body.  Neither dressed nor undressed

Such is the flight of doves, their versions composing pleasure


What was she saying?  Thought, the earth, love

The predicate returns upon itself.  In a system of rewards and punishments, which is

A soft bed.  Her spread, white thighs.

Opacity overwhelms the narrative, though we fail to avert our eyes.  Like his desire,
language projected onto her body


*  *  *


These poems are part of a manuscript, Nights Reading, engagements with narrative and the construction of gender and otherness in and surrounding The Thousand and One Nights: texts taking up tales in which women figure prominently, the role of the female narrator and that of Sir Richard Burton as translator.  A parallel series of engagements extend and play upon other writers’ engagements with the story-cycle: writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, John Ashbery, Fatima Mernissi, Italo Calvino, and John Barth.  Nights Reading, like its progenitor, is a marriage of numerous impulses, bound together by tropes of gender, alternately affirming and undermining socially constituted power and authority.



Marthe Reed has published two books, Tender Box, A Wunderkammer with drawings by Rikki Ducornet (Lavender Ink) and Gaze (Black Radish Books), as well as two chapbooks, (em)bodied bliss and zaum alliterations, both part of the Dusie Kollektiv Series.  Her poetry has appeared in New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, New Orleans Review, HOW2, MiPoesias, Moria, and Exquisite Corpse, among others, and is forthcoming from Ekleksographia and Fairy Tale Review.  Her manuscript, an earth of sweetness dances in the vein, was a finalist in Ahsahta Press’ 2006 Sawtooth Poetry Contest.

Leave a Reply