Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out


Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out


By  Richard Siken  Richard Siken


Every morning the maple leaves.
                               Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts
            from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big
and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
                                             You will be alone always and then you will die.
So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog
         of non-definitive acts,
something other than the desperation.
                   Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your party.
Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I came to your party
         and seduced you
and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.
                                                         You want a better story. Who wouldn’t?
A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
                  Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.
What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
            Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
                                                                                               flames everywhere.
I can tell already you think I’m the dragon,
                that would be so like me, but I’m not. I’m not the dragon.
I’m not the princess either.
                           Who am I? I’m just a writer. I write things down.
I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
               I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow
         glass, but that comes later.
                                                            And the part where I push you
flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,
            shut up
I’m getting to it.
                                    For a while I thought I was the dragon.
I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
                                                                                                the princess,
cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
          young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with
confidence
            but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
                                                               and getting stabbed to death.
                                    Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.
          You still get to be the hero.
You get magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!
                  What more do you want?
I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you’re
            really there.
Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?
                                                       Let me do it right for once,
             for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,
you know the story, simply heaven.
                   Inside your head you hear a phone ringing
                                                               and when you open your eyes
only a clearing with deer in it. Hello deer.
                               Inside your head the sound of glass,
a car crash sound as the trucks roll over and explode in slow motion.
             Hello darling, sorry about that.
                                                       Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we
lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell
                                    and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.
            Especially that, but I should have known.
You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together
            to make a creature that will do what I say
or love me back.
                  I’m not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not
feeding yourself to a bad man
                                                   against a black sky prickled with small lights.
            I take it back.
The wooden halls like caskets. These terms from the lower depths.
                                                I take them back.
Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.
                                                                                               Crossed out.
            Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something
underneath the floorboards.
                   Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle
                                                                                                reconstructed.
Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all
               forgiven,
even though we didn’t deserve it.
                                                                    Inside your head you hear
a phone ringing, and when you open your eyes you’re washing up
            in a stranger’s bathroom,
standing by the window in a yellow towel, only twenty minutes away
                           from the dirtiest thing you know.
All the rooms of the castle except this one, says someone, and suddenly
                                                                                              darkness,
                                                                                     suddenly only darkness.
In the living room, in the broken yard,
                                  in the back of the car as the lights go by. In the airport
          bathroom’s gurgle and flush, bathed in a pharmacy of
unnatural light,
             my hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.
And then the airplane, the window seat over the wing with a view
                                                            of the wing and a little foil bag of peanuts.
I arrived in the city and you met me at the station,
          smiling in a way
                    that made me frightened. Down the alley, around the arcade,
          up the stairs of the building
to the little room with the broken faucets, your drawings, all your things,
                                                I looked out the window and said
                                This doesn’t look that much different from home,
            because it didn’t,
but then I noticed the black sky and all those lights.
                                           We walked through the house to the elevated train.
            All these buildings, all that glass and the shiny beautiful
                                                                                             mechanical wind.
We were inside the train car when I started to cry. You were crying too,
            smiling and crying in a way that made me
even more hysterical. You said I could have anything I wanted, but I
                                                                                      just couldn’t say it out loud.
Actually, you said Love, for you, 
                                 is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion. It’s
                                                                                                 terrifying. No one
                                                                                 will ever want to sleep with you.
Okay, if you’re so great, you do it—
                        here’s the pencil, make it work …
If the window is on your right, you are in your own bed. If the window
            is over your heart, and it is painted shut, then we are breathing
river water.
            Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it
                                                                                                                 Jerusalem.
                            We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not
what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,
             a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over
and over,
             another bowl of soup.
The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
             Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.
                                                                                                 Forget the dragon,
leave the gun on the table, this has nothing to do with happiness.
                                        Let’s jump ahead to the moment of epiphany,
             in gold light, as the camera pans to where
the action is,
             lakeside and backlit, and it all falls into frame, close enough to see
                                                the blue rings of my eyes as I say
                                                                                                   something ugly.
I never liked that ending either. More love streaming out the wrong way,
             and I don’t want to be the kind that says the wrong way.
But it doesn’t work, these erasures, this constant refolding of the pleats.
                                                            There were some nice parts, sure,
all lemondrop and mellonball, laughing in silk pajamas
             and the grains of sugar
                              on the toast, love love or whatever, take a number. I’m sorry
                                                                                  it’s such a lousy story.
Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
                     we have had our difficulties and there are many things
                                                                                                  I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
             years later, in the chlorinated pool.
                                      I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
             these luxuries.
I have told you where I’m coming from, so put it together.
                                                            We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor …
             When I say this, it should mean laughter,
not poison.
                  I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.
Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.
                                                  Quit milling around the yard and come inside.


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“Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” by Richard Siken. From Crush, © 2006 by Yale University, published by Yale University Press. Source: Crush (2006)

Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out

By Richard Siken Richard Siken

Every morning the maple leaves.
                               Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts
            from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big
and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
                                             You will be alone always and then you will die.
So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog
         of non-definitive acts,
something other than the desperation.
                   Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your party.
Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I came to your party
         and seduced you
and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.
                                                         You want a better story. Who wouldn’t?
A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
                  Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.
What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
            Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
                                                                                               flames everywhere.
I can tell already you think I’m the dragon,
                that would be so like me, but I’m not. I’m not the dragon.
I’m not the princess either.
                           Who am I? I’m just a writer. I write things down.
I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
               I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow
         glass, but that comes later.
                                                            And the part where I push you
flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,
            shut up
I’m getting to it.
                                    For a while I thought I was the dragon.
I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
                                                                                                the princess,
cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
          young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with
confidence
            but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
                                                               and getting stabbed to death.
                                    Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.
          You still get to be the hero.
You get magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!
                  What more do you want?
I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you’re
            really there.
Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?
                                                       Let me do it right for once,
             for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,
you know the story, simply heaven.
                   Inside your head you hear a phone ringing
                                                               and when you open your eyes
only a clearing with deer in it. Hello deer.
                               Inside your head the sound of glass,
a car crash sound as the trucks roll over and explode in slow motion.
             Hello darling, sorry about that.
                                                       Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we
lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell
                                    and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.
            Especially that, but I should have known.
You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together
            to make a creature that will do what I say
or love me back.
                  I’m not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not
feeding yourself to a bad man
                                                   against a black sky prickled with small lights.
            I take it back.
The wooden halls like caskets. These terms from the lower depths.
                                                I take them back.
Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.
                                                                                               Crossed out.
            Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something
underneath the floorboards.
                   Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle
                                                                                                reconstructed.
Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all
               forgiven,
even though we didn’t deserve it.
                                                                    Inside your head you hear
a phone ringing, and when you open your eyes you’re washing up
            in a stranger’s bathroom,
standing by the window in a yellow towel, only twenty minutes away
                           from the dirtiest thing you know.
All the rooms of the castle except this one, says someone, and suddenly
                                                                                              darkness,
                                                                                     suddenly only darkness.
In the living room, in the broken yard,
                                  in the back of the car as the lights go by. In the airport
          bathroom’s gurgle and flush, bathed in a pharmacy of
unnatural light,
             my hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.
And then the airplane, the window seat over the wing with a view
                                                            of the wing and a little foil bag of peanuts.
I arrived in the city and you met me at the station,
          smiling in a way
                    that made me frightened. Down the alley, around the arcade,
          up the stairs of the building
to the little room with the broken faucets, your drawings, all your things,
                                                I looked out the window and said
                                This doesn’t look that much different from home,
            because it didn’t,
but then I noticed the black sky and all those lights.
                                           We walked through the house to the elevated train.
            All these buildings, all that glass and the shiny beautiful
                                                                                             mechanical wind.
We were inside the train car when I started to cry. You were crying too,
            smiling and crying in a way that made me
even more hysterical. You said I could have anything I wanted, but I
                                                                                      just couldn’t say it out loud.
Actually, you said Love, for you,
                                 is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion. It’s
                                                                                                 terrifying. No one
                                                                                 will ever want to sleep with you.
Okay, if you’re so great, you do it—
                        here’s the pencil, make it work …
If the window is on your right, you are in your own bed. If the window
            is over your heart, and it is painted shut, then we are breathing
river water.
            Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it
                                                                                                                 Jerusalem.
                            We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not
what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,
             a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over
and over,
             another bowl of soup.
The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
             Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.
                                                                                                 Forget the dragon,
leave the gun on the table, this has nothing to do with happiness.
                                        Let’s jump ahead to the moment of epiphany,
             in gold light, as the camera pans to where
the action is,
             lakeside and backlit, and it all falls into frame, close enough to see
                                                the blue rings of my eyes as I say
                                                                                                   something ugly.
I never liked that ending either. More love streaming out the wrong way,
             and I don’t want to be the kind that says the wrong way.
But it doesn’t work, these erasures, this constant refolding of the pleats.
                                                            There were some nice parts, sure,
all lemondrop and mellonball, laughing in silk pajamas
             and the grains of sugar
                              on the toast, love love or whatever, take a number. I’m sorry
                                                                                  it’s such a lousy story.
Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
                     we have had our difficulties and there are many things
                                                                                                  I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
             years later, in the chlorinated pool.
                                      I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
             these luxuries.
I have told you where I’m coming from, so put it together.
                                                            We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor …
             When I say this, it should mean laughter,
not poison.
                  I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.
Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.
                                                  Quit milling around the yard and come inside.
Share this text …?

“Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” by Richard Siken. From Crush, © 2006 by Yale University, published by Yale University Press.

Source: Crush (2006)

jesslia:

girl with mustache
By jessicalia

Available to license exclusively at Stocksy

Moonlight Sonata
A spring evening. A large room in an old house. A woman of a certain age, dressed in black, is speaking to a young man. They have not turned on the lights.
 
Through both windows the moonlight shines relentlessly. I forgot to mention that the Woman in Black has published two or three interesting volumes of poetry with a religious flavor.
So, the Woman in Black is speaking to the Young Man:


Let me come with you. What a moon there is tonight!
The moon is kind – it won’t show
that my hair turned white. The moon
will turn my hair to gold again. You wouldn’t understand.
Let me come with you.

When there’s a moon the shadows in the house grow larger,
invisible hands draw the curtains,
a ghostly finger writes forgotten words in the dust
on the piano – I don’t want to hear them. Hush.

Let me come with you
a little farther down, as far as the brickyard wall,
to the point where the road turns and the city appears
concrete and airy, whitewashed with moonlight,
so indifferent and insubstantial
so positive, like metaphysics,
that finally you can believe you exist and do not exist,
that you never existed, that time with its destruction never existed.
Let me come with you.

We’ll sit for a little on the low wall, up on the hill,
and as the spring breeze blows around us
perhaps we’ll even imagine that we are flying,
because, often, and now especially, I hear the sound of my own dress
like the sound of two powerful wings opening and closing,
you feel the tight mesh of your throat, your ribs, your flesh,
and when you enclose yourself within the sound of that flight
 and thus constricted amid the muscles of the azure air,
amid the strong nerves of the heavens,
it makes no difference whether you go or return
and it makes no difference that my hair has turned white
(that is not my sorrow – my sorrow is
that my heart too does not turn white).
Let me come with you.

I know that each one of us travels to love alone,
alone to faith and to death.
I know it. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t help.
Let me come with you.

We’ll pause for a little at the top of St. Nicholas’ marble steps,
and afterward you’ll descend and I will turn back,
having on my left side the warmth from a casual touch of your jacket
and some squares of light, too, from small neighborhood windows
and this pure white mist from the moon, like a great procession of silver swans –
and I do not fear this manifestation, for at another time
on many spring evenings I talked with God who appeared to me
clothed in the haze and glory of such a moonlight –
and many young men, more handsome even than you, I sacrificed to him –
I dissolved, so white, so unapproachable, amid my white flame, in the whiteness of moonlight,
burnt up by men’s vocarious eyes and the tentative rapture of youths,
besieged by splendid bronzed bodies,
strong limbs exercising at the pool, with oars, on the track, at soccer (I pretended not to see them),
foreheads, lips and throats, knees, fingers and eyes,
chests and arms and things (and truly I did not see them)
– you know, sometimes, when you’re entranced, you forget what entranced you, the entrancement alone is enough –
my God, what star-bright eyes, and I was lifted up to an apotheosis of disavowed stars
because, besieged thus from without and from within,
no other road was left me save only the way up or the way down. – No, it is not enough.
Let me come with you.

I know it’s very late. Let me,
because for so many years – days, nights, and crimson noons – I’ve stayed alone,
unyielding, alone and immaculate,
even in my marriage bed immaculate and alone,
writing glorious verses to lay on the knees of God,
verses that, I assure you, will endure as if chiselled in flawless marble
beyond my life and your life, well beyond. It is not enough.
Let me come with you
When you live on a lake, you share yourself with silence, little sounds, moving thoughts
What is said over there is heard over here
The lake by day is like your mind at dayThe lake by night is like your mind at night
The sea’s murmuringThe stream’s babblingThe lake’s stillness
(To write down a lake thought, you have to lose the lake mind)
I sit here and become you
(Sometimes I’m thinking of the lake and sometimes of you)
A lake makes you think that the whole world is present
(Half of the lake reflects all of the mountain)
Everything turns towards a lake
The lake reflects the universe
The lake is where we once lived(and then we were born)
You must share the lake with other creatures(we are all part of it)
Living by a lake changes the way you look at things, changes the way you live
(Money is useless on a lake)
The lake’s colonizers: swimmers, rowboats, motorboats, waterskiers
A lake welcomes visitors from the sky — planes, birds, clouds
A lake likes the moon over her
The lake is like a planetarium projecting the night sky
The Big Dipper leans over the lake as if to scoop it up
The only quickly moving lights: fireflies and little airplanes(and their reflections)
The lake changes slowly as moon and clouds and stars pass by
Once, the lake and the stars lived together.  Separating, the lake realized that by reflection it could keep the stars always in her(“There are the stars in your soul”)
By day the lake forgets
The lake: causeless, reasonless, bottomless, rootless
In the beginning, says the Rig-Veda, there was only water,and in the water a living germ. Out of this, with the firstawakening of desire, came the living seed — you and me
(“The origin of creation is the desire of creation” — Simon Magus)
Over the water, two dragonflies are mating in the air
After making love by the lake, you become all the sounds you hear
One speaks softly by a lake
(The softer you speak, the clearer you hear)
A lake is devoted to listening
You can hear it dreaming
At night, by a lake, cars sound like jets
When it’s quiet, you can hear the stream inside the lake
(Late at night, I waken to the sounds of the lake in my body)
A lake is devoted to breathing
You can smell the sound of a lake
Let it tell you things
Listen
Now
We must all go inside
The lakes waits for you

When you live on a lake, you share yourself with silence, little sounds, moving thoughts

What is said over there is heard over here

The lake by day is like your mind at day
The lake by night is like your mind at night

The sea’s murmuring
The stream’s babbling
The lake’s stillness

(To write down a lake thought, you have to lose the lake mind)

I sit here and become you

(Sometimes I’m thinking of the lake and sometimes of you)

A lake makes you think that the whole world is present

(Half of the lake reflects all of the mountain)

Everything turns towards a lake

The lake reflects the universe

The lake is where we once lived
(and then we were born)

You must share the lake with other creatures
(we are all part of it)

Living by a lake changes the way you look at things, changes the way you live

(Money is useless on a lake)

The lake’s colonizers: swimmers, rowboats, motorboats, waterskiers

A lake welcomes visitors from the sky — planes, birds, clouds

A lake likes the moon over her

The lake is like a planetarium projecting the night sky

The Big Dipper leans over the lake as if to scoop it up

The only quickly moving lights: fireflies and little airplanes
(and their reflections)

The lake changes slowly as moon and clouds and stars pass by

Once, the lake and the stars lived together.  Separating, the lake realized that by reflection it could keep the stars always in her
(“There are the stars in your soul”)

By day the lake forgets

The lake: causeless, reasonless, bottomless, rootless

In the beginning, says the Rig-Veda, there was only water,
and in the water a living germ. Out of this, with the first
awakening of desire, came the living seed — you and me

(“The origin of creation is the desire of creation” — Simon Magus)

Over the water, two dragonflies are mating in the air

After making love by the lake, you become all the sounds you hear

One speaks softly by a lake

(The softer you speak, the clearer you hear)

A lake is devoted to listening

You can hear it dreaming

At night, by a lake, cars sound like jets

When it’s quiet, you can hear the stream inside the lake

(Late at night, I waken to the sounds of the lake in my body)

A lake is devoted to breathing

You can smell the sound of a lake

Let it tell you things

Listen

Now

We must all go inside

The lakes waits for you


A SIMPLE LIFEIf you want to be free, learn to live simply.Use what you have and be content,not changing mates or careers.Leave your car in the garage.If you have a gun, put it away.  Sell that complex computer andgo back to using pencil and paper.Rather than read every new book thatcomes along, reread the classics.Eat food grown locally.Wear simple, durable clothing.  Keep a small home,uncluttered and easy to clean.  Keep an open calendar withperiods of uncommitted time.  Have a spiritual practiceand let family customs grow.Of course, the world is full of novelty and adventures.  New opportunities come along every day.So what?  ~ from John Heider’s translation (The Tao of Leadership) of theTao te Ching. 
John led encounter groups at Esalen Institute and the Human Potential School of Mendocino.

A SIMPLE LIFE

If you want to be free, learn to live simply.

Use what you have and be content,
not changing mates or careers.

Leave your car in the garage.
If you have a gun, put it away.  

Sell that complex computer and
go back to using pencil and paper.

Rather than read every new book that
comes along, reread the classics.

Eat food grown locally.
Wear simple, durable clothing.  

Keep a small home,
uncluttered and easy to clean.  

Keep an open calendar with
periods of uncommitted time.  

Have a spiritual practice
and let family customs grow.

Of course, the world is full of novelty and adventures.  
New opportunities come along every day.

So what?

  ~ from John Heider’s translation (The Tao of Leadership) of theTao te Ching. 

John led encounter groups at Esalen Institute and the Human Potential School of Mendocino.

“ The gap means non-connectedness, un-connectedness — the Self, Absolute, unconnected with the relative. This is Cosmic Consciousness. All activity — the movement of the hands, and the activity… of the mind and intellect and ego — and then the Self, Absolute, being a witness to the whole thing. So there is a gap; there is a non-connectedness between this [activity] and this [Self], and that is the gap. Now in God Consciousness the gap is there, but it is so beautiful; it is celestial. That is what interested me. This gap is filled by light and then, further on, the light gains the state of pure awareness. So [in God Consciousness] there is the celestial and the Self — whatever the gap, that gap becomes celestial. And then eventually the celestial merges into pure awareness, pure consciousness, and then the Unity results. “ —Maharishi, Conversations with Maharishi by Dr. Vernon Katz See More

“ The gap means non-connectedness, un-connectedness — the Self, Absolute, unconnected with the relative. This is Cosmic Consciousness. All activity — the movement of the hands, and the activity of the mind and intellect and ego — and then the Self, Absolute, being a witness to the whole thing. So there is a gap; there is a non-connectedness between this [activity] and this [Self], and that is the gap. Now in God Consciousness the gap is there, but it is so beautiful; it is celestial. That is what interested me. This gap is filled by light and then, further on, the light gains the state of pure awareness. So [in God Consciousness] there is the celestial and the Self — whatever the gap, that gap becomes celestial. And then eventually the celestial merges into pure awareness, pure consciousness, and then the Unity results. “

—Maharishi, Conversations with Maharishi by Dr. Vernon Katz
See More