From Vol. 9: “From The Self Is Being Thought,” poetry by Amie Zimmerman

Poetry: Amie Zimmerman

from The Self Is Being Thought


presented with the framework
of fevers, faith, moon
light and such other violence
an obvious definition of self I am
not ready to accept
I, predictably, am violent
in my plunge to sleep


the dried-up bird bath I steady refuse
to clean out and fill
the mock orange
that either smells like grape Kool-Aid
or jasmine tea depending on how sober
you think I am

you talk about the game
of personal resistance
liken it
to the practice of meditation
and I respond by hanging up
too quick to the page
to the enamorement of self-confession
to self

be gone, gone, gone, gone

I cannot tell how many babies
down the aisle are crying at once
the pitch and chord entwining
becomes everlasting
in the way of legacy
the way of Kentucky bluegrass
the way of shotguns and truck rust
and voluntary enlistment

it’s not that I run from it

it says to me I remember the ground opening
the shoot of the tree grinding through the window
our diamonds missing
we had no diamonds
we had wheat, maybe

I wake to the scrubbed dirt of the knuckle
broke open
I wake to a stuttered heart
the heart of foxglove, shook for its seeds

you think I didn’t see the bruise but I did

still I did not ask you to sit though
I could see you waiting to be asked

the banner over me is: figure out how to earn it
the bannerman advances and I shoot
him for too slow a pace

given time we all find our five fingers
even those that have two or three
god, what I wouldn’t give
for a good two fingers
wake to a pink sky
and the smell of treated
burning railroad ties

you say you know my neighborhood now
the sixteen blocks there and back
to our taqueria
the rental
where I took the elderberry cutting

five years ago we would wake up to trees
along the street attacked by a knife
every few days or weeks
more hacked
and sometimes killed
the killer impressing
us all with an ability to name
without naming

they do not often recover
even from the lush feet and hands
of children clamboring
on low-lying branches

the pushing out or presenting of
an unmet challenge to defend oneself
offering the breast
offering the self-severed self

you’ve traced the line of my shoulder
as many times as it took to crush
the need to trace my shoulder
moving instead to the ear or wrist

I say this is a cycle
you say you wish
to be that simple and my response
still is there’s no such thing

sure, an absence of whatever stands in
for accountability to crumpled faces
beneath fists but it does not count
if one needs redemption
which one does desperately

don’t let us fool ourselves

we believe in the concession
of the way back
of the existence of eggs
of parlay
of all masculinity
of the necessity of the way back
the constriction
at the bend in the well laid knot
a long shudder standing in the kitchen
the dead ugly possum in the road
belly full of ticks
the thought of undelivered Lyme’s

a pattern maker’s loss of ability
to finalize a pattern
when she cannot walk any longer
shunt in her upper arm
delivering tremendous
doses of antibiotics
to keep her alive in waves

it will feel like waves before the opiates
arrive, her voice diminishes
to the back of the throat
the pattern maker sees the way she did not die
and leaves her husband though he does not know
until later
she thought her frame too brittle
the whole of her upper arm
as big around
as my wrist

it is harder to believe there exists
blood that does not attack itself
for, in taking down the body
so is the mind
brought low

what house sets itself on fire
other than the human body

what crop withers
but the sustained work
of the compulsive foot to treadle

in the footage of chemical warfare
I could not tell the difference
between the dying insect
and the one going on
without knowledge of its dying
I am not sure if that says
what I think it does about me
or about death
or what it looks like to change
on the inside without anyone knowing

let’s take down the petticoats
it’s not about punching someone in the face

I refuse this

my refusal creates a music now
my refusal writes a book of poems
about fever dreams
and dum dum moonlight
my refusal is honest about ill-fitting simplicity
and the taste of the tongue
on the side of a ream
of paper

all those edges
chewing them into deckling
the only way to authenticity

I’ve whole crates of iris open now

this time you be the one
to wear the wedding dress
since here
you are in front of me
with a dry mouth again


when I reach the noise
the beam freezes mom and baby
raccoons in the neighbor’s
blue plastic pool
in the still
hot small hours

I turn off the light
to cry and crouch near
while one steps out
and then in and out again

am I the one to sell myself
and is there any cave
or open space where
I have not been sold

am I able to contemplate
this sale without first
assigning the buyer

to sleep in the yard
outside the transactionary house
is still to shelter
on bought land

the imaginary deed of self
doused and burning, daily

Amie Zimmerman lives in Portland, Oregon. She has two chapbooks, Oyster (REALITY BEACH) and Compliance (Essay Press), and is an editor for YesYes Books.


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