The Editors Write: There’s a swirling energy in Daphne Gottlieb’s writing that’s extremely difficult to pin down. There’s anger, yes – any sensible person would look at the world and find reasons for anger – but there are also pulses of vibrant life and overwhelming despair in her writing, all entwined in sex, culture, history and politics, given form in poems that bristle with emotion. She’s an uncompromising writer, and also one capable of immense empathy, which seems like it shouldn’t be as contradictory as it is, save that hers is the sort of compassion that comes when one is able to look past fear and prejudice, past the judgmental, artificial cultural narratives, to see what’s actually there. What Gottlieb reveals, in poem after poem, is the shuddering, vulnerable mess of what it means to be human, and more to the point, she’s capable of looking into that particular fearful abyss to see what makes it beautiful.
poem for the woman who read the haiku about homeless people having sex that ended “if the shopping cart’s a rocking, don’t come knocking.”
By Daphne Gottlieb
1. You were a teenager.
You had one
condom and nowhere
to go. This
is nothing like that.
Homelessness is transmitted
through body fluids. Through sharing
works. Through kissing, public toilets,
through thought, through seeing.
Don’t see it. Don’t touch.
Sex is a luxury the way
the moon is a luxury, meaning that it is
always there but it needs time and space
to be yours and the incontinent man
in a wheelchair. The woman with scabies or lice
whose pants don’t close has no space.
The two men collecting cans
before dawn, arms caked with
garbage cans. The immaculate
woman working two jobs
and sitting up all night
in a drop-in. The man
talking to the moon,
to himself, to God.
God is too busy
to have genitals. God is just
trying to survive. Desire
has no home. The homeless
have bodies. Is there love
during wartime and is this anything
2. Nothing was rocking.
There was no door to knock. The woman
was raped. The police report and so what.
Move the body from the center
to the side. Now move the body
Move it harder. Move the body across
the city in bare feet, move it into
the shadows, move it in police
citations, move it into shelters
or still in the streets
hands together – the body
stays warmer if it moves,
move it under blankets,
hand in hand, it’s warmer,
The raped woman is so hot
she’s burning up.
Start again. That is about violence.
Not sex. Not love.
Not the moon, the silver coin
in night’s palm, a hand
that can hold and kiss
and in doorways
and anywhere else
people will fuck.
there is desire
and sometimes love
3. Nothing was rocking.
If you got it on you.
The body stays warmer.
Move it into the streets.
Don’t come knocking.
Burn it up.
Writes Gottlieb: Dodie Bellamy is the Evel Knievel of parataxis, an old-fashioned film splicer that eats blood, a car crash of good.
Bellamy’s most recent book is the buddhist (Publication Studio), an essayistic memoir based on her blog, Belladodie. Her most recent chapbook is Whistle While You Dixie (Summer BF Press). Time Out New York named her chapbook Barf Manifesto (Ugly Duckling) “Best Book Under 30 Pages” for 2009. Other books include Academonia, Pink Steam and The Letters of Mina Harker. Her book Cunt-Ups won the 2002 Firecracker Alternative Book Award for poetry. She lives in San Francisco with writer Kevin Killian and three cats.
From the buddhist
By Dodie Bellamy
The buddhist said he loved me when we were fighting as much as when we were purring to one another, he said he loved all parts of me, all moods of our interaction. And I believed him. I could tell him anything, I could be any way with him and he would still love me. My therapist’s response to this: when things seem too good to be true, they are too good to be true. Anals of official philosophy are fucked by bureaucrats of pure reason. The buddhist’s attention was so dazzling I felt like the star of a reality TV show, the fat woman who has an extreme makeover—ugly parts are cut away, new parts are stitched on, then she’s coached into fitness and retooled by a team of beauty experts—for the grand finale all her friends and family gather to witness the unveiling of the gussied up version—she is stunning, a bride to her dream self. Then the cameras and support staff vanish, leaving her to deal with the profound loneliness of ordinary life. Standing in line at Safeway I vacantly stare at a magazine cover featuring three former contestants from a series about pregnant teens, now that the show is over their lives are falling apart—depression, drug addiction, boob jobs. I look at Kevin beside me, peacefully sleeping in the navy cashmere cap I bought him for his birthday—I get a hit of his otherness and his sweetness and it pangs my heart—with this incredible love, right here, that slaps me in the face on a daily basis, what was the point of the buddhist? He made me feel sexy special exciting—traits I don’t particularly try to convey, like I’m over such staginess—but I must still crave it, must still long to be that dazzling woman beneath the klieg lights—all eyes turning to watch, to delight in Her/Me. For women, God is always about the gaze. Little ones to him belong, for they are weak and he is strong. Jesus loves our weaknesses, but God loves our glamour.
Writes Gottlieb: Danielle Montgomery is a bull’s eye’s sweetheart, the song of the raw bone, a telegraph from a bare cupboard.
Montgomery’s recent book of poems is The Woman You Write Poems About. Thea Hillman says, “In Danielle Montgomery’s poetry, faith rides shotgun with hopelessness, and at the last minute grabs the wheel, dropping us off at our destination salvation.” She writes about class, economic struggle, and the search for sanity and human dignity.
By Danielle Montgomery
ever since the kindergarten IQ tests
smart was my currency.
i felt for phrases in the pockets of my jeans:
i went to work
my desk was gone, the assistant staring blankly.
the alphabet rearranged itself,
i couldn’t concoct anything saleable.
when smart returned, bearing stacks of tens, twenties, hundreds
i burned the bills.
somewhere there is a little girl
getting a lesson.
this is a poem to you, grown:
if you lose it, you are not lost.
beauty does not skip you
based on the novels you’ve read.
love is not
a column of numbers. you’re no measured sum.
there is a whole world
that demands nothing of you.
there is a whole world that demands nothing of you
that holds you, penniless, all night long.