Poetry / Lee Ann Roripaugh
:: #coldspringwithptsd #string of beads ::
midnight’s icicle :: each day longer in the tooth :: the end of winter fangs its way in toward your :: palely exposed jugular ~ hawk unfluffs a :: bunny into aperture :: the unraveling ribbons of slick intestines :: rain’s sullen legerdemain ~ panic’s acetone :: chipping night’s glitter- :: polish of stars / next morning a stray balloon dream- :: tangled in real tree branches ~ relentless birdsong :: see-sawing under the eaves :: ativan’s static an impotent snow / tin-foiled :: antennae / poor reception ~ leapday: drinking black :: coffee / black coffee / drinking :: black coffee / stare at the walls / black coffee / black :: coffee / black coffee / stare— ~ the muffled thud of :: damp socks Stockholm Syndroming :: in the dryer / you never really listen to :: the non-sequiturs of rain ~ relentless birdsong :: see-sawing under the eaves :: april’s tight green buds popcorn to ruptured cloud in :: anxiety’s hot oil sheening ~ young hawk plucks apart :: something tender in the tree :: outside your window white fluff dandelioning :: down / spring broken / sprung forward ~ melancholia :: unfolds its wiry, anised :: uncoiling like a bitter licorice / roadkill’s :: flat pancaked halo of calm ~ exsanguinated :: stone / no-more-shake-left injet :: spilled milk / licked-clean plate sac’s cul / crumpled juicebox / dis- :: pensed pez / inkless octopus ~ relentless birdsong :: see-sawing under the eaves :: migraine’s struck tuning fork blowtorching a fountain :: of sparks behind your right eye ~ rain’s slack gray phrases :: slurring the blurred windowpanes :: ostinato of the gutter’s percolated :: rattle / wilting confetti of storm-drenched lilac :: in the alley / Monday noon’s :: tornado siren diluted, like too-weak tea :: in the day’s triggering wet ~ today you are a :: delicate glass shattering :: under cold water after rain’s gray anthems / comes :: snow’s staticky off-signal
:: #sandhillcranes #string of beads ::
sizzle of orange :: lightning / the corrugated :: tin blind a gaunt bell clanging in the wind and rain :: curious deer near to see ~ roosting overnight :: in clusters on the river’s :: sandbars / cranes stirred to call and response by the storm :: say hello (hello) hell-oh ~ scribbled warble of :: cranes graffiti night’s water :: a river otter’s sleek whiskered head interrupts :: the river’s tense murmuring ~ train whistle’s blurred smear :: curlicued by coyotes’ yip and wail :: the wood-block chortling of cranes gets frenetic / as :: sun’s wobbly gold yolk slides up ~ thousands of sandhills :: helix off sandbars into :: spirographed kettling football stadium loud / iced :: river exhales puffs of fog ~ a whooping crane takes :: wing from the cornfield in snow :: ukiyo-e cranes in snow / moon craning :: the river trills all night long ~ obfuscatory :: crooning slices through the mist :: filaments of cranes unraveling / shaggy yarn :: from a woolly skein of fog ~ a flyover plane :: cranes burble silver water :: chirping lotto balls oil empire’s blinking neon :: signage strobes the horizon
:: #to the tardigrades #kaze no denwa ::
o microscopic water bear! o infinitesimal moss piglet! let us squee and coo over the winsome gambol of your eight pumping legs the slovenly crumpled origami of your brown-paper-bag body even given the anus-like pucker of the mouth-hole on your face your optics are far more comforting than the cockroach’s as sole survivor of post-atomic apocalypse your cryptobiotic superpower: an uncanny ability to freeze-dry and thrive in the vacuum of outer space for decades at a time then resurrecting back to life with a single drop of water your microfossils date back 520 million years and you’ll survive supernovae / killer asteroids and gamma-ray bursts of searing radiation (it would take vesta— an asteroidal ocean killer with a diameter of 326 miles— to potentially erase you) o, tenacious survivor of cosmic trauma / how I wish I could channel the matter-of-factness of your resilience in the face of nothingness your ability to just be and keep on being what is it about myself and other humans that harbors the sweet fruit of suicidal ideation the genocidal fire of self-destruction? why the reverse morse of nuclear codes? spill of poison into the water supply? the seductive electricity of the third rail— that magnetic urge to swerve and plummet from mountain’s switchback and fall and fall and fall?
:: #to the robobees #kaze no denwa ::
a machination of horsehair with a sticky ion gel pygmalioned from tiny drones your plastic spinners mix-mastering an electric whir sound of thousands of microscopic blenders pureeing summer’s air a drone for a drone (technological revolution in the means of production?) (linguistic sleight-of-hand in which representation replaces the real?) it begins with the dwindling of the hawaiian yellow-faced bee the withering away of the rusty patched bumblebee diminishing habitats invasive species neonicotinoids climate change colony collapse disorder post-apocalyptic prophecy: a fleet of you pollinating a field of shriveled flowers with the uncanny thrum of plastic zombies is a bee still a bee without honey? (if poets become extinct will the algorithms keep humming? is a poem still a poem when no one’s left to read?) who will miss the idiosyncrasies? bee-flies who mimic honeybees / but with obscenely long tongues to plunder shy primroses sphinx moth wings a throated purring in the night / as they ravish the honeysuckle honeybees lured in by their fascination for blue flowers (lavender / borage / marjoram veronica / love-in-a-mist) returning to the hive with heavy pollen baskets who will secrete royal jelly from glands in their head? who will pass the pollen from bee to bee / each of them chewing and grinding until it’s refined and sweet ready to store in wax cells? (it takes eight bees their entire lives to make a single teaspoon) who will make the honey that smells like nostalgia tasting like a memory of lavender flowers fragrant in sunlight?
From the writer
:: Account ::
#stringofbeads is envisioned as an ecocritical and decolonizing collage of braided tanka, zuihitsu, and “kaze no denwa” (“wind phone” tributes) that interrogates the false binary of Nature and Technology. In this false binary, Technology is the term that’s privileged as progressivist, urbane, smart/intellectual, scientific, creative, and patriarchal/male. Nature, conversely, is cast as atavistic, raw, undeveloped, primal, unenlightened, and female. These terms and the ways in which they’re aligned simultaneously echo racial/racist stereotypes in which Nature occupies the oppressed (i.e., raced/Orientalized) pole of the binary: exoticized, fetishized, primed for “mastery,” situated to be “known”/subject to “knowingness,” othered, idealized, and penetrated. Along similar lines this conflation of Orientalizing and gendering cathects in tendencies to always represent Nature as pure, “pristine,” “untouched” as in virginal.
The idea of Nature as “pristine,” “untouched,” and “virginal” is a patriarchal and colonizing fantasy. Even at national parks, Nature is imbricated with technology and industry: roads, signage, visitor’s centers, cell phone service, etc. etc. To take a photograph of Nature at the scenic outlook/view is to photograph a carefully engineered illusion—one in which industry/technology has created the means to the view, but is eliminated from the frame to create the illusion of Nature as pure/pristine/untouched. This nostalgia for an Orientalizing/colonizing fantasy is also, perhaps, the recreation of a phallocentric rape fantasy?
Yet Nature always/already exists alongside industry and technology. Nature is always/already part of industry and technology in that industry and technology are constructed, at root/base, from natural materials, and industry/technology is always/already “natural” in that industry/technology are organic creations of biological organisms of our planet. Meaning that the oxymoronic term “man made” is a false separation from “nature made.” As if “man” is somehow above/in charge of/master of nature, as opposed to a part of and subject to the “laws” of nature. “Man made” is not necessarily progressivist or “evolutionary” (in a positivist sense), either. “Man made” is an evolutionary process, yes, but easily a process that could lead to extinction, as could any number of evolutionary processes.
Natural ecosystems are, biologically speaking, all planetarily interconnected, and so there is no such thing as “pristine” Nature. The act of discovery automatically creates a First Contact between Nature and Technology even in outer space—the result being that the definition/scope of Nature is only enlarged? It’s interesting that outer space seemingly belongs to the realm of Technology/Science/Science Fiction, until First Contact is made, at which point the “flag is planted” and it becomes a focus of colonization, dominion, belonging to, and hence Nature. Nature in this sense is constructed as passive, and awaiting colonization. Nature only exists once ownership/dominion occurs, and is therefore a term of property rights and colonization. (Hence alignment with the feminine and racialized others.)
Thus, Nature is always/already Cyborg.
And so what does it mean to trouble the binaries between Nature and Technology in representations of, particularly, Nature? What does an intervention that attempts to destabilize the essentialized notion of Nature as an exoticized, fetishized, feminized, passive, “pristine” Other look like?
And in a feminist rewriting of the primal rape fantasy (and its nostalgic iterations) doesn’t Nature tend to trump Technology (i.e., natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.)?
And if nature is always/already Cyborg, does this mean that Nature, like all Cyborgs, is semiotically unstable, but also meteorologically volatile (and possibly unhappy at being tampered with/interfered with by her cybergenic creator(s))?
With respect to literary representations, I also feel that contemporary renditions of traditional Asian forms are particularly guilty of representing Nature in this “pristine,” fetishized, Orientalized manner which (in tandem with the appropriation of a traditional Asian form by a non-Asian practitioner), leads to a sense of double Orientalizing (both formal and thematic): “museum culture” nostalgia for a pre-Westernized Asia, etc. This is ridiculous given what a technologically-driven and technologically-savvy group of countries comprise contemporary Asia.
Non-Asian practitioners of haiku, tanka, senryu, et al. are not automatically offensively Orientalist for their appropriation of the forms, per se (although the question of (mis)appropriation here is definitely worth discussing), but rather for their performance of the form in such a way that reifies and expresses a nostalgia for Orientalist stereotypes—particularly through relying on static imagery of/for a Nature-that-is-no-more (pure, pristine, etc.) in a linguistic style that is likewise static/dated in terms of contemporary poetry and poetics. (As another subset is (mis)appropriation, perhaps we might consider Western/non-Asian “haiku” (and other) societies that similarly defend the “purity” and “tradition” of the form—even as it has already been Westernized through translation and non-calligraphic practices.)
#stringofbeads plays in this fluid, hybrid spectrum between Nature and Technology, matriarchy and patriarchy, occidental and “Oriental,” paying homage to that which is lost, destroyed, and made extinct through elegiac intrusions of #kazenodenwa (“wind phone”) poems.
Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry: Dandarians (Milkweed Editions, 2014), On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin, 1999). A fifth volume, tsunami vs. the fukushima 50, is forthcoming from Milkweed in 2018. She was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series. The current South Dakota State Poet Laureate, Roripaugh is a professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she serves as Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review.