Who Troubles the Waters?

I do not know a way to characterize David Abel’s work so that I do it justice, and I mean that as a very high compliment. I have seen works by him that look like musical or performance scores (and indeed may be approached as such); I have seen works by him that look like poems on the page; I have seen works by him in which each page is a screen or curtain over another and another, and the wonders keep revealing themselves as one turns pages. In other words, David Abel hails from Basho through John Clare through Marcel Duchamp through Jackson Mac Low. He pays attention to earth and sky, yet he looks at them as though there are wonders yet to be discovered, by skewing the lens, or combining Q with Y, or simply by paying attention for a little bit longer. He does pay attention for great lengths of time, and such time he deserves from his audience as well, as we will be rewarded.

In the current work, we begin “in” states of extremity “intolerable” and “ineradicable.” Yet we turn to see ourselves and remember “How I used to laugh at the mirror!” (104) In other words, we live in the world, as humans in time, and it is only in time that we can understand the extremes and also become one with them, “in the fold.” Change, the day to day, the counting of breaths, the notice of shadows, the rupture of living, constitutes the being of these poems. But while some other poet might make a high drama of such moments, Abel’s great triumph is to lead us, with language, to understand something fairly Buddhist about the progress of our days. I say “with language” because even a sound can take us toward understanding. Here, the sound is that made by “ure” in

            a fissure
            is a rupture
            that is part rapture,
            part scripture

            a facture
            that captures
            the azure
            in a texture


We may live in folds and fissures, but we also live in our utterances, and Abel’s work is a reminder of the pleasures of uttering a word such as “gusset.” (147)

This may sound like a catalogue of simple pleasures and attentions, but a trip through the work will belie such a notion, because “behind” and “beneath” take us not only into our own underworlds, but into “the pain of others” and places where there are “ghosts” and a growing “cyclone” that may engulf us, songbirds and all. (225)

I had thought I might try to write a real introduction to the work, as a whole, of David Abel. But to invoke one of his favorite poets, Robert Creeley (who can also be found within this work), in writing of another poet, “Not even a sunrise could quite manage that.” Yet the sun itself, shining over and around objects, creates shadows, and “The shadow is a placeholder / for the double.” My double, your double, we all have others, we all have shadows. You will find many of them here, in the words and between the words, “out of the corner of the eye.” (259)

One could live with these poems every day, again and again.

                                        --Charles Alexander
                                          16 July 2014






          Intolerable joy, ineradicable pain
          living in the fold,
          as time turns on its contours

          How I used to laugh at the mirror!


          red coupe behind black
          beside the house
          familiar tree:

          is it changed
          by eyes, ears, feet, feelers?

          manipulated ground
          “weeds happen”

          leaf-blowers, lawn-mowers,
          rakes, weed-eaters, edgers,
          ladders, trash barrels, tree doctors

          the whole world green
          with envy


          lightly roasted green tea
          sewn into a flower

          at bottom

          sewn to pages
          (pages sewn to leaves)

          Parque Xicotencatl

          has a number —
          you count your paces
          or I count my breaths,
          and the campesinos with their brooms
          sweep the paths of the calendar


          the shadows
          of true gaps


          the book as a machine for exaggerating threshold

          spooky shoes


          for T.F.

          a fissure
          is a rupture
          that is part rapture,
          part scripture

          a facture
          that captures
          the azure
          in a texture





          Mini Essay
          for Joe Brainard

          “Gusset” is a word that makes me happy just to know it.


          it’s the odds —    or the gods —




          We are haunted by our real-life.


          the shade of our error          

          the horse that isn’t a horse until we name it


          The Generations of Electricity


          Not “Her” veil —
          for which all literal veils are metaphors

          another sense precedes
          my metaphysics —

          we make things,
          that’s what we do


          She likes the expression: life is densely filled, and she loves the densely filled life 
          that is hers and the pleasure she takes in it, she loves people who share this 
          pleasure with her, without affectation or gloom.


          The Actual Teaching Practice of the School of Agility

                      It is significant that Zacconi speaks of the ornament of 
                      the repeated attack on the same note as the true door 
                      for entering into the art of passages . . .

          The chain of events which results in the publication of certain books is often
          wrought from links of coincidence. One of the most interesting phases of
          American history embraces the removal of 60,000 Indians from the southern
          states and their adaptation to a new home within what is now the State of
          Oklahoma. If The Other Fifties were to realize its intent, few Americans would be
          able to think of the 1950s as either simple, innocent, happy, unanimously
          supportive of a broad spectrum of beliefs, or radically separated from the 1960s
          by a culture of complacence. A new book by Richard Foreman is an event, but I
          think that this book will astonish. When early writers told of the West and
          Southwest, they were, with few exceptions, writing of a region east of the
          Mississippi River. In relation to his true stature, Arnold Bax is now far and away
          the most neglected British composer who flourished in the first half of the century.
          Before reading this book, you should know a few facts about me. When an event
          in history leaves behind a priceless piece of itself—a journal page, a map, a
          leather shoe, a ship’s wooden skeleton—it is something worth noting. For the
          past three summers, bystanders on the waterfront of the Egyptian city of
          Alexandria have been treated to an unusual sight. “What? Alexander dead?
          Impossible! The world would reek of his corpse!”


          the behind or beneath
          of mutually exclusive desires

          “true” aspiration

          if I believed in writing, dreaming,
          assured of having everything in time

          if I believed the pain of others
          did not indict me

          From the Polish

          They were already ghosts, those two.
          Years later, in another country,
          name trimmed and oiled back,

          From Another Tongue

          The unfamiliar words wrapped around your ears
          like the newspaper clutching the feet of less
          fortunate girls on the high street,

          To the Yiddish

          Do songbirds tell me more
          than the idling engine?
          Out in the warm waters, a cyclone matures.


          The view was, who knows, probably pretty.


          The destruction of the body —
          last prepositions.

          About face.

          Coffee —
          Salami and eggs —
          A fishing knot —
          A figure of speech —

          Will you testify to my intentions?
          My testicles intestate.
          Terrified on your best day.
          My respite from abstention.
          Will you transliterate my confessions?
          My unspoken word.

          My literal father is dead.
          My literal mind a dead end.
          Hunger will always hover behind every taste.
          The hard labor of the other always goes unnaturalized.
          Endlessly disposing we have displaced the world we so briefly, so blissfully were
               alien to.
          Only the buses left to remind our ears of the sea.

          Fare well, Nature.          
          Fare well, Nature.


          I bought a Talking Love Stamp Parrot
          for my Smelling Nose Dog

          Kitchen magnets
          for cancer survivors

          Support our stockbrokers


          “the die is cast”

          an exhibit of dies


          She can’t sleep
          The chimes surround the loft, sirens at open windows and doors, the bed aloft an
                island a raft she can’t stay strapped to its missing/insistent mast
          Sirens also speed through her incomprehension
          Wind itself — before it borrows bodies of metal, wood, water — rouses her from
                feverish dreams
          Dreams she refuses, again and again, each refusal taking root in another quarter
                of her body, signal fires lighting the night —
          Until she opens her eyes and cries out no one’s name

          A socket in a ceiling
          A cord between table and heaven, bringing the outside-in outside again
          Doors and windows open to suddenly cool night air in the regressed café
          The chessplayers: gendered, tattooed thought

          The season’s first scarf
          How many holes can culture make in a wall (before the wall is repaired)
          We only know partitions, here in the lab

          Larger and smaller than a clock
          The science of credence unprized
          Septic wonders of the world

          She traced the edges of her lips with her fingertips as a necessary corollary of
                speech subsumed

          New ladies seen ailing here
          None dies in line
          New diet sins straight

          The jacket again (black, leather, lining torn)
          The stain (suede, defiled)

          All scheduled light a work against the unnameable
          (whose lungs burn so that this hand can cast its moving shadow?)
          Whose sleeping child’s meal is warmed by the stabbing pain that tears through
                your side?
          The alternative energy of death


          No day without a limit


          Most of the talking goes on in North America.
          Diarrhea — second to heart disease.
          Let’s not talk about it (for 23 years).
          Chris D. started a commie blog.
          I want to re-embrace deeper pleasures,
          but I’m lazy (or am I just afraid?).
          I thought about telling all my secrets
          (including the unremarkable ones) —
          if I lecture you on a subject of serious importance,
          you will cease to exist. Then I’ll see you?
          800 million heartbeats — is that enough?
          The corpse flower, titan arum, lives just one day.
          (But not any particular day.)


          Perhaps I will find my dark silence now.

          It is midnight
          and your birthday arrives unannounced
          six feet six, without knocking

          I’m washing dishes
          I’m washing the cracked bowl
          it is always midnight, here
          in your birthday, the dark side
          of the moon of your bright death

          it has already been midnight
          everywhere else, you were born
          and you died everywhere but here
          until this moment, here, in the space
          between all the languages you wore
          like a giant

          Does she wait for you,
          bajo la luna
          you see her
          with your voice
          your delirious darkness
          lit by a Cuban cigar


          Meek School Garden Club Box


          1882: US Navy destroys the Tlingit village of Angoon


          Nietzsche: the nerves of Shelley, the stomach of Carlyle, and the soul of a young lady.

          a ghost
          at the rehearsals
          of a life that was
          not to be


          This island is no bigger
          than your broad back —

          you wear it
          like a summer shirt,
          the names tatooed across
          your chest and shoulders —
          Barceloneta . . . Cordova . . .
          stuffed with thousands

          because inevitable

          lost in time

          It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who
          undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but
          tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearthside from which we set
          out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest
          walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return, prepared to
          send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.


          the train runs beside my life —
          lines that don’t meet
          except in the ear,
          words to a song
          from my parents’ childhood


          The shadow is a placeholder
          for the double

          sustaining energy
          the dark side of the moon
          out of the corner of the eye

          who dances, who upsets, who troubles the waters, who tells the story, who sings,
          who watches in silence, who carries the news, who feeds the children, who sees
          double, who gets lost, who finds the next safe haven by getting lost, who never
          begins, who takes the reins, who calculates the equinox, who heals the sick, who
          dies, who dies to die, who lives to die, who lives to live to die to die


Author's Note on

I embarked on this open-ended sequence nearly ten years ago. A collage of poetry, prose, and quotation, it is in equal parts journal, poem-sequence, and commonplace book; essentially, everything that I write that doesn't insist on its own autonomy is fair game to be incorporated into the ongoing drafts. Earlier sections appeared in Hubbub and are forthcoming in the second issue of pallaksch, pallaksch. The sections reproduced here include borrowings (in italics) from Marguerite Duras, Endi Hartigan, Christa Wolf, Czeslaw Milosz, Salvatore Sciarrino, Witold Gombrowicz, and Henry David Thoreau.


David Abel is the author of Float, a collection of collage texts spanning twenty-five years (Chax Press); Tether, a chapbook of poems (Barebone books); and Carrier, a hypergraphic visual sequence (c.L. Books), as well as numerous artist's books and chapbooks, most recently Elysian Ellipses and Shawarma Tractor. With Sam Lohmann, he publishes the Airfoil chapbook series. He is a founding member of the Spare Room reading series, now in its thirteenth year. An inaugural Research Fellow of the Center for Art + Environment of the Nevada Museum of Art, he curated the exhibitions Chax Press: Publishing Poetics for the Pacific NW College of Art and Object Poems for 23 Sandy Gallery. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works as an editor and is the proprietor of Passages Bookshop.

Charles Alexander is a poet, publisher, and book artist. He is the director and editor-in-chief of Chax Press, one of the only independent presses which specializes in innovative poetry and the book arts. 

Special Feature Issue: LORI ANDERSON MOSEMAN



ABOUT Peep/Show #7

Lori Anderson Moseman’s compositions always offer particularized insights into the familiar. In “Orbit Limits” I stare at “Place Mats.” Their points of balance between colors, shapes, words, objects, textures are fluid bodies with moveable barycenters. Induced by elemental thrust I am ushered to watch, read, feel, move with total autonomy. Painted waters, bleeding tides, paper sails, typed paddles, reflected seashells, marble clit: all prompt instructions & their contraries with sacred simplicity &/or simple gravity.
               “Cut your own cheese,” 

               “Stay on your lane”

               (from conversations between us)

               “She heaves a shovel full

               he heaves a shovel full

               a slow throw at a time” 

               from All Steel —Hand tools / Wall street —Flim Forum Press

Chez Lori the center mass is always deeply felt —purposely, playfully, thoughtfully, consciously & unconsciously located outside the expected body.

                                                              ---Nicole Peyrafitte
                                                                  February, 2014


 o r b i t   l i m i t s




Lori Anderson Moseman’s newest poetry collection, All Steel, is from Flim Forum Press. Anderson Moseman is the author of Temporary Bunk (Swank Books), Persona (Swank Books), Cultivating Excess (The Eighth Mountain Press) and Walking the Dead (Heaven Bone Press). She founded the Stockport Flats press in the wake of federal Disaster #1649, a flood along the Upper Delaware River. Her work recently has appeared in literary journals, 100 Word Story, dislocate, divide, Epoch, Portland Review, Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built &; Natural Environments, Trickhouse.org, Tonopah Review, The Volta.org and Yellow Field, Water-Stone.

NicolePeyrafitte is a Pyrenean-born multidisciplinary artist whose videos, paintings, writings, singing & cooking are often integrated into multimedia stagings. Her latest projects include the documentary film Basil King: Mirage as producer & co-director (with Miles Joris-Peyrafitte), & Bi-Valve, a performance project that includes 17 texts, 14 paintings & 3 Videos.

Issue #6: Chine-collé

Collage by Lynn Behrendt, 2012

About Issue #6: Chine-collé

The first time we took a stab at Peep/Show, the paper slipped into the wrong place when it went through the press, exquisitely saturated in black and white. We delicately placed each mark by hand. There might be digital writing on Andromeda and Perseus, an etching with aquatint, spit bite. There might be small folded sheets of handmade Kozo papers in blues and naturals. There might be magical secrets about pasting, printing, mounting, leafing.

We’re talking about a special technique in which an image is transferred to a surface that is bonded to a heavier support. Place thin pieces of colored paper, cut or torn to a desire shape into position on your plate, then glue the paper and print with elements such as drawings or rice. This should be performed by an experienced conservator because possible delamination may occur.

Let us be your experienced conservators. We wouldn’t want you to delaminate.

A rough translation might be “thin paper attached with glue.” Wheat paste, thinned. There is hand -rubbing over your anatomical heart, your rib cage. This is a pink chair portrait on hand marbled paper, on a solar plate called “Togetherness” or a one-of-a-kind sunflower in a series of 32. Obsessed, we've been locked away, experimenting, adding visual embellishments.

We’re talking about engaging the surface, woodblock prints on Nepalese paper, antique Japanese prints, on atsu kozo gami paper with black morita kami chine-collé. There might be a trajectory that involves pieces of a dream, a thin sheet, fish, an investigation into a processional sIide.

Either we’re playing in traffic or cashing in on the American dream. We love birds and even this buzzard that was etched onto acetate before inking up. We love winter apple trees, their monotypes in sugar-lift, aquatint, soft ground. Our speed is infallible, an infallible etching as long as an hour. 

                                                                        —Anne Gorrick & Lynn Behrendt, Curators
                                                                          August 11, 2012


Elizabeth Bryant


This remainder is lost forever, but the subject will always search for it.

                             —Rómulo Lander, Subjective Experience and the Logic of the Other


Elizabeth Bryant is the author of seven chapbooks, and a full-length book of serial prose-poetry (nevertheless enjoyment (Quale Press, 2011). She has a second book forthcoming in 2014, and her work will be included in In/Filtration, an anthology of experimental Hudson Valley writers. She co-curated the Bard Roving Reading Series, and publishes Five & Six, an ongoing photo/text interview collaboration. Her current focus is on a project called Animal Fragments, an exploration of human/animal images in the wilds of New York State. 


Reb Livingston



The unplanned devised a plan to decide what was important and what was unimportant. Passed out the straws and realized they were one short. By luck or accident this was something that happened all unto itself. Perhaps it was a pregnant plan performing atrocities from bed.

It was about taking a stand.

And about shoes. I lost mine, then stepped on something sharp. On this hill even the grass was sharp and cracked.

Did I bleed?

Did it matter?

Dyeable shoes making do in a shit economy. Drab shoes. Sample shoes. Seasonal. Heeled. Sparkled. Sneaks. Tying on the discounted. Discounts for the hoard. You couldn’t discount how his political process creeped out his guests but nobody wants to be rude to the guy providing the dinner and booze. They all decided to keep things light. This is what they agreed. They will not think about pictures of his penis either angry nor sated.

What penis?

No penis to see here.


The pregnant carried weight. The pregnant had to go. Wobbly never won a beauty pageant.

Out-of-sight and off the scale.

A cart full of discounts and grimaces making way to higher ground. Maybe there was a flood coming or maybe I was there for the view or maybe I was taking my stand at a very reasonable price, albeit one with blisters.

* * *

The beginning of something can be something of an ending, the future is The Lovers, the future is over the hump and into the swamp, the future is an implosion-happy bridegroom, the future is the casino paying out poorly printed money, it’s going to hurt, foul future looking back at you.

An advertisement stuck on my Ace of Spades, an advertisement printed underneath the advertisement on my Ace of Spades, the future is bifocals, ads on a deck I already paid for, ads on a deck I shoplifted long before advertising was invented.

It’s complicated, it’s count clockwise, it skips around.

These cards portray the children of snakes, my second favorite deck portrays the parents of propaganda, how is my baby being telecast, how does my baby have more market share than me?

I consider the reversed, understand nuances, understand it doesn’t change much, four piles of cards implicating the same destiny, the Adorable Puppy used to be something else, something vicious, now he’s just playful destruction, now when you hit him with a rolled up newspaper he bites your lip while making enthusiastic love to the cavern of your neck.

Somewhere there’s a sincere young man mumbling, “that’s really beautiful,” on a YouTube video.

Going back in time to teach primitive women how to assert themselves.

Might that be dangerous?

Someone has to do it, the lover’s head among the fancy spread with meats and champagne, things change to paper dragons, things change like a mighty empire, things change with the Lover wearing an insensitive mask, yes, it’s good when they teach ladies how to wrestle.

There’s a fast-food restaurant called SPERM where the willow tree used to be, but one question, what’s on the menu?

There bald men read your future by gazing into your toilet.

The bald man looking through my bowels, picks the High Priestess, he fishes the signifier out of the bowl, these cards are showing their wear, this card stuck on the back my underwear, the King and Queen of Diamonds tumble out, the face of the Magician worn off, wishing that mage met the Empress and felt something close to abundance.

There’s a spunky sperm who was never allowed, who is quite sure his mother would have loved him if she bothered to know him.

This admission makes a difficult time shuffling the waterlogged deck.

I don’t need clubs, I need a pair a pants, can’t show up in only underwear, people expect decency, people expect a cover up, people expect someone to wear the pants around here, people expect the imaginary to know its place and remain in the imagination until its needed.

The boy cut his neck on a hookah while fleeing on a donkey and now his mother and father are here to claim him.

Why should I cooperate?

Because we must do something to pass this time along to the next in line.

The 3 of swords can tell you if you’re compatible or not.

The attic doesn’t exist, it stands for something unreachable by gut.

She’s wearing the red dress rippling in my reflection, I flush a thousand times, flush as hard as I can.

She remains red and rippling.

That is what the Tower card warned about and this is how I failed that advice.

How can there still be water to fill the tank?

How am I so unloved?

The meaning of the Devil is passion and temptation, it’s not the passions or the temptations that are foul, it’s the people who own them.

Foul unlovable people.

There is no Hate card, I smudge what is before me on the stall, in the deepest red and brown, far far past hate, post-post-hate.

* * *

Under the uterine sky the many windows reopened after the robbery, exposed vulnerable like a matryoshka exhibit, crippled like a classmate. So many things taken, toys and games and teeth and shoes and a silver birdcage. I don’t know where they were stolen from but I knew they were gone and I couldn’t get them back.

I knew my robbers; ex-lovers and cousins of friends with their pocket knives and laughter, taking keys and iPhones along with all the other goodies. The ex was the worst criminal and the worst of people, the worst of all I spat and put up no fight because I couldn’t come up with a purpose any of this would serve.

When they left I locked the doors and hung the screens like fly traps. I huddled in my womb of no entry and saw no trapdoor, not that I tried, not that I wanted to ever get out or wanted anyone in.

I lived a warm and cellular life until one day the house heaved and pushed me out and I couldn’t get back in. Outside was too bright and cold for anyone to exist, yet so many did.

Somehow I did too.

 * * *

My trailer graffitied but it was much worse than that. The animals inside hadn’t behaved, they went positively wild. The leopard ate the caretaker and most of the cow. All that was left of Mizmoo was her head and shoulder, sounding so mellow, mooing on the floor, like she forgot a leopard gobbled her. Maybe she understood that her purpose was delicious.

All I found of the caretaker was his silent, severed foot.

Difficult to say if this was my fault, if the animals should have been fed, if it was my responsibility to feed them. Should I have separated them? Put up some kind of boundaries? I left them as they arrived. Who was I to implement a change in the order? I barely could make sense of the existing rules. Couldn’t even be sure the leopard was the culprit, but the zebra hadn’t appeared as a contender. It had to be the leopard, the zebra was inconsequential.

The scrawl on the outside of the trailer:










An outfit calling itself “The Carries” claimed authorship and included an email address.

Clearly an attack on my feminism with bait for my reply.

I gave no reply nor showed any tears or concern. I walked away and when I returned much later all that remained was leather specks and bone splinters, piled like magic refried beans, like a pile of runny shit caught in a rainstorm.

Don’t ever bring my feminism into question again, you psycho-cunted arsonists, I seethed to the specks and splinters, else I’ll rain down onto you the most terrible Twitter mob who will tweet your titties to crumbs.

* * *

On this meeting with this particular ancestor named Carry, I was surprised by her mask and its thickness. Hardly a way in or out. Not at all clownish but with brown scales, leather and bolts.

How strange to hear her speak through the clamp for a mouth and to be seen through her single tiny eyehole. How muffled her words sounded through the barriers. How uncomfortable to know she cried behind that foulness not because it was foul, but for the sake of her brother, an accused molester of the vulnerable.

Trouble with the law. There’s always so much trouble with laws for this family.

Who did this to you?

“The women and children, like they always do, their cruel, perverted imaginations that they just can’t keep to themselves. They have to share, and share for years, they whisper and then they group together and then they testify and allow it all to go down as record. They perverted it all, smote his perfect legacy.”

No, I mean who put that mask on you? Why are you still wearing it? What is behind it?

“My brother placed it on me, for my salvation. He’s my protector. There are so many terrible women and children spouting their wretched tales, repeating and publicizing. They let nothing go! What lies behind this mask hasn’t yet been penetrated. So little left that hasn’t been penetrated. My face is one of the last pure bastions.”

You can hardly see or speak through that mask and it smells like your skin is decaying under there.

“Yes, the decay keeps me safe. Frightens away the children and many of the women too. No one is going to scavenge me for their depraved narratives. Forever I remain unmolested.”

But her corpsed-face remained unmolested no longer.

Because now I was there, smelling it, imagining its appearance, inventing my memories.

* * *

I stepped through the door leading to the alley, the kind of alley where back in the day, when a hero is a helpless child, his parents might be killed right in front of him. There I found myself in the middle of a bald man duel.

One bald man wore an argyle sweater vest, the other had a reptile poking from the crown of his skull. One time my father had a sweater vest so I knew not to look. One time my father was possessed by a reptilian alien so I knew not to get close.

The duel was over quickly. A bald man died. A bald man was the victor.

Unconsciously I stroked the dead man’s head knowing there must have been relations a long time ago. His corpse glowed a pregnant pox I hadn’t cared to remember until this death and once I did care, I still couldn’t remember.

This was a game changer, if we replaced the term “human beings” with “players” or “avatars.”

At Chalet Ice N Elk we prepared for the invasion. Then they got my father and we were leaderless. We called Mom. She screamed over the phone that she couldn’t help it if our father was a reptilian assbeast and besides, she already did her time and now she was a free agent fielding considerably better offers.

So we embraced our new world order by adapting our lives to fit into alien society. All we could do to survive.

We embraced our new world order?

Struggling to remember the embrace.

We must have. We’re still here.

* * *


REB LIVINGSTON (www.reblivingston.net) is the author of God Damsel (No Tell Books, 2010), Your Ten Favorite Words (Coconut Books, 2007) and the curator of The Bibliomancy Oracle (http://bibliomancyoracle.tumlr.co /askoracle). She's currently finishing her novel, Bombyonder.