BARBARA HENNING & MARTINE BELLEN
14 x 14 x 14
May 9, 2011
The locust trees are under constant revision. The passersby are
wearing hats. These things seem innocuous, but when he says
that my body feels like home, a chair falls on my head, an omen
three years short of medicare and my heart racing like
a teenager. A drummer on Astor Place catches the beat. Crouched
in a doorway on Avenue A, my hand over my left ear, listening
to Cleveland in my right. Trucks, motorcycles and busses blowing
smoke. At home a check from the poet's house and the sound
of birds and muffled voices in the park. My neighbor's dog barks
for an hour while I fold towels into small rectangles, the branches
swaying high over Tompkins Square. Politicians want, politicians
want to privatize education, kill medicare, log the forests, 15,000
species cut off, cut out. Verizon and AT & T donate to the Tea Party.
Sign here. Quiet. Distant traffic rushing in and out like the sea.
I declare a holiday for radical architecture—
Maidens locked behind iron doors, rusted since grandees
Seduced your great, great aunt near the aspidistra in the garden below.
Ancestors chopping off milady’s viper rage
While waxy Daily Alice chases herself into public space,
3 for 5 and her pleasure paid for with plastic
(You’re killing me with your chop-stick watusi).
Beyond the wild woods comes the Wide World,
Lace hands and laurel hair to still the metamorphosis.
Babies pushed by pregnant houses
And cubby holes within ear and nostril sockets.
Don’t tell me the work’s too dear,
That structure can’t be concocted of fur and claws,
And talons and feathers, and I-beams and Moon-rays.
May 10, 2011
To sleep is beautiful with spring morning light. Our paths
cross for a reason they say, but then sometimes they run
parallel for years and years. Outside the Christians pontificate
with loudspeakers over the food line on the edge of the park,
three times as many people this year waiting for a sandwich.
The lord loves you and gives you this sandwich and this apple.
Bernadette asks me on the phone, Are you still eating only grapes?
I know you used to. There are fourteen joints in the human hand.
Yod dalet, fourteen, is also the Hebrew word for "hand"
and fourteen pieces of the body of Ausar shape all the forces.
My cards keep coming up one short, Hebrew through marriage
African ancestors more distant. All of us related and yet—
in Behrain, a woman can be horsewhipped for driving a car.
and I am driving out to the island to see Kofi. This after-
noon in Prospect Park, a tree asked him to hug it, so he did.
Then I awoke wearing your arcopedicos
Deep in the Book of Days
And sliding scale therapy. All this talk of dreaming and I wasn’t.
What makes the song cool is the ire tenderly crooned,
Her drive to swat a black fly just because it’s on a SWAT team.
Or consider what appears that’s never been summoned
Not the other way around (been summoned—no appearance).
Click here to buy a pass on terrible times.
Should I tic off each narrow escape?
What about when I shovel smoke?
Ghosts spew fog is how they propagate,
Miss the surface all together and cloud up the ever-after.
What’s a water rat to do but jump in a hole?
I anti-procrastinate so, can’t wait for the hour to right itself.
May 11, 2011
A little bird is sitting on the window ledge, singing. Kofi meditates
in a chair with needles in his body. The garbage truck lowers its tray,
gears up and moves forward. Folded back at my knee joints, reclining,
I remember Allen. Then I curl into a child's cry. We live in the flicker.
May it last as long as possible without neglecting the wo/men.
When Allen was dying, his penis disappeared inside his groin.
Try not to force anything. On the bike, I lean forward into the wind.
First Joe Brainard remembered, then Perec, now I'm forgetting.
Henya Drescher posted on, Erica Hunt sent you, Kristi
Maxwell wants to be, Andrew T wants to be, Sally Silvers
invited. The sounds of people talking and traffic and here's an open
book. He used a music score to write a narrative. It's not public
knowledge so please don't tell anyone I told you that he held me
inside his sweat jacket as the ocean winds whipped around us.
It starts with doctors and aspic fluids,
Time/language constraints pummeling her skin suit.
Why all the Wellness Expos and “Blessings” as valedictions?
If you’re a white cat with blue bird irises, though lovely, you’re bound to eat your
eyeballs and go deaf.
Now hear this, it’s noon and time to hunt for antelopes, octopi in
an ocean of addresses, stamped dresses.
Even after you refused to look, I imagined you with 20/20 vision in your storybook
An overgrown lawn thick with lilac bush, hedgerows, and thorny berry bogs,
Had never before seen so far and intimately into the inside of a life.
You threw on your tutu and skedaddled to the ballet—lunges, pirouettes—tornadoes
across a deep stage space.
Though applauded, you lacked what animals have: absence.
So much effort and then momentary resistance,
Paid dues, raised the family—time to hire a cyborg with a French apron.
See ya—going … going—dead center,
It’s a sinker, it’s a line drive.
May 12, 2011
Why didn't I notice the bird sounds this morning?
Busy mind with wide awake losses. Bike over to Second
Avenue to bring a friend some lunch. Will this lover become
a friend? Coasting along. That girl is pretty isn't she?
Michael Lally told me once that I looked like Barbara Guest.
I looked at a photo of her youthful beauty and said to another—
that's hard to hold onto, isn't it? Maybe now with automated
investigations and with a little nudge to the rectilinear
a swerve back into, what is this heart ache anyhow? Madame
regent opens the drapes and the trucks and cars crawl
along and uneventfully merge. Hi Gramma, the little voice says
over the telephone, I really really want you to find Mr Tickle
for me. One more book and we sink into the soft sofa
with a flash light and streaks of light that flash beyond
Why not consider it a practice?
After all, visionaries are limited by their visions.
The debate barely reached its climax
After the long, empty stretch of anticipation.
Fraud-raisers and fun-risers scheduling exquisite banquets
Of sliced tuna and rows of uni and eel.
Bulbs bloomed, crocuses crooned, too much blabbing and balling
In the Blind Pig Bar where dudes never curtsey when skiddooing.
The villain by the dart board avoided punishment though word got out he was the
Late to ID the body; am I mind or you?
Quite a quiz the night turned out to be.
He lost his teeth in Sarajevo while his combat buddy fell in battle.
The victimology displayed similitude,
Episodes of entertaining murder.
May 13, 2011
Martin Luther said that girls begin to talk and stand on their feet
sooner than boys because weeds always grow up more quickly
than good crops. Today I was the troll under the bridge, the evil
fairy on the slide, under the Long Island sun, a robin red breast
posing in the Blue Point Library with a swarm of mothers
and toddlers. At noon, Luke's asleep in the chair and Logan's
bouncing in his crib to James Brown. I'm dozing off while a wise pig
mother on tv is planting a garden. I happen to like weeds, plants
not valuable enough to be harvested, but hearty and prolific.
Five o'clock and I follow the digital line, pay $6.50 to avoid the BQE
then the aggressive search and swerve to find a spot. On the elevator
three single women with grocery bags. Broccoli, green beans
and two books. As the dishes pile up, the character, the man
and the idea takes hold again—the romance of our bodies
Don’t hammer nails into my temple,
Egress x-it or purification by fire.
November roses noses frost-
Bitten though thorns recall the blood red petals.
Rimpache can’t recall reincarnation:
Like a plane accident, a drowning, a deep-six.
The dream, an eye-opening vision without sight.
Immolation protest in which the body accepts one moment.
Eyeglasses assist illusion while mirrors reflect face//old face.
Which is delusion or laundering identity dry?
If the poet lies in the poem has she lost time and self
Or if the words stream after her body washes up on shore,
When is memory eroded beyond retrieval?
When does the “who you are” become unrecognizable to you?
May 14, 2011
Arms overhead, spine extended, chest open. Exhileration.
Then fold forward and stand up. A crane dangles
a pillar high over twenty-five stories and thousands
of pedestrians. Squawk. I love you. Put your body beside
mine. That means something. Only sixteen stamps
and look at that, we're saving the environment. Bernadette
says her mind has become digital. Synonym is a sino—
damn I can't pronounce it. And she used to think that
Aristotle was an asshole. Each dot with its own squawk
box, messing up the impervious nirvana winds. Walking
with Cynthia MacAdams and her little dog on Second Street.
In Harry's novel the characters suffer in stiff Victorian ways.
In my dream, I kiss my lover but he doesn't kiss back.
When I ask him if he received my message, he says no.
That must mean something. Today, we go our own ways.
Verdi would not approve of his narrative censored,
Asked himself, have I always known so little or did it take years?
The greatest number of languages spoken in Slovenia—everyone thinking
every which way compacts space.
What right does music have to hypnotize?
Splashing pools of sound between bellowing lungs,
Top notes even closer to communing with sea/
Revered sensei—great master.
Nuclear family fracking ice tea with fresh sprig of mint.
What he experienced inside had no well from which to seep
And no swell from which to creep,
Swam up his pipes with balanced tinkling.
The morning after the concert she dreamed she pissed in her sleep
And was so pissed she woke without even having to piss.
3:30 for the first bird chirp; head baked at 350.
May 15, 2011
Wake up looking at locust leaves and the misty sky
Write an email, a thank you and then stretch out
A siren and the trees swish in the wind, hesitate,
then swish again. Aloe leaves at the Korean bodega.
Hurray for more grey sky and my downstairs neighbor's
rolling rising falling scales and the faint voices
of screaming children in the park. "Summering"
is a word the very well-off use. When Jacqueline plays
I float out the window frame. This is a coney island
bound Q train. The next stop could be charmed except
when a door in the hallway slams. We seem to have
forgotten that the i ching gave a positive prediction.
For a very long time. I love your skin, I love your skin, too.
What a crazy world we live in, entropy and megaentropy.
The screaming family with snide smiles
Wore green fatigues, enervated,
Though the minor character’s curiosity is piqued,
Since she isn’t the protagonist, she stays away from the fray.
Patternless spider webs, chaotic: stormy ocean wave.
She considers writing the song’s title but can’t allow herself to purchase the
tune and make it ordinary.
How many bodies does a tune inhabit?
We are accompanied by a drumbeat and flying saucer.
Eldercare in the laundry room.
Breath and bonoboes are wind instruments.
When he killed the father he chose his fate
As enemy, opted for oblivion.
It works only if it’s pronounced exactly right.
Who was it that betrayed you? that kept you as a sonnet?
May 16, 2011
The locust leaves are like wet green lace, twinkling
in the breeze, We walk over to Broadway in our raincoats.
my shoes swelling up with water, socks soaking wet,
buy bowls and black rubber boots. Five lines behind
fourteen at most. Lee Ann asked me to ask Harry
if he could write a goedesic dome, what form would
the poem take? How about coming to my house on
Tuesday night? Want to stop by. Pin you down.
Dream of you. You're in love and then you're not
in love. You can't be love with someone who isn't
in love with you. We'll just see how the time shakes out.
Nothing about you. It's me. Suddenly I remember
my grandson's face and I ache to be near him, asleep.
Want to come to my house and walk on the beach?
That which you know intimately because of circumstance—
That she’s not available could be the best of all outcomes,
For instance, I dreamed I was among the ones who dialed up death,
An addict of the Revenge-Is-Tastier dictum:
Most are identical in root domestic particulars,
Cracked rib and neck fractures. I elbow you, you bow below snuff,
Your citrus-colored summer suit worn for suicide,
Sour and uremic shame.
Severely limited range of sound recall.
Where’s the oomph? Moon is guiding my paranoia,
Tornadic locomotival herd.
A tiny bloom of orange burned their share.
Everyone stares into the middle distance
When treading the dark lake.
May 17, 2011
Sometimes it's not possible to resist the fall in one's
heart, an alternative movement, opposite side turning
left then right, find your balance. Run into Brenda
in Alphabets, looking at skirts. Then I'm sitting
on a stoop on 14th street, talking on the cell
with Michah, moments of affection and affinity,
an intersection between essay and fiction. By the time
I wrote down the fourth word, staccato, I was exhausted.
They just end like that. Soon you would realize,
the poet says that in our faculty meetings there's
always someone whose rank we don't quite
understand. And they are always there, looking at us.
I miss you, dear, texting me, the words appearing inside
bubbles, possibly possible and then a little more
Date of patient’s injury
And a raison or sun-dried d’etre on the banner for condoms: “Wisdom is a wide
The calamity that prompted Solon to advise Croesus
To wiggle stocking-encased toes.
Who can admit happiness from any location other than one’s final destination?
Mr. Strauss-Kahn grabbed her breasts and crotch and his wife provided bail,
The description of the assault on facebook.
When Robeson sang, baseball bats and rocks and the KKK,
The interview was conducted right before his death and he knew he’d be out of there in a
day or two,
Not knowing what the week would look like.
Meat is a vague term that can apply to any part of an animal.
Another spectacular victory in my quest for more of everything.
A necklace of scars.
I will be in touch, detectives.
May 18, 2011
Sleepy but with a quick dash of water on my face,
I bike over to Wooster St. Arm balances and forward bends.
Everyone is quiet. A passenger in a yellow cab swings open
his door into the bike lane and I squeeze around him.
Open your eyes mister. Sweeping the floor, I pick up
a paper clip. A student sends me extra work to critique
and the class is over. Should we become more organized
or continue with this chaos. What I love most about this room
is the window in the middle of the largest city, a green rain forest
In the subway car, a skinny guy with bare tattooed arms
and a blue baseball hat, four days old beard, soaked boots,
and a wooden cross around his neck writing meticulous
prose, tiny narrow rows filling up the page. And then
he nods out, leaving a blob of black ink in the middle
Pouring rain and it’s a bad judgment day.
Our attachments are our temples.
Go down Y Avenue?
I’m behind the moment, behind the ball,
Beside the towering trees, flowering cats.
Sleep order, disforget, forgone.
Iatros means healer—a treatise on causes of mortality.
Abject moment the size of a hand-mirror, the size of a page.
The one who walks as an imprinter of evanesce.
Essayist, sayer, seer, hearer, knower.
Ulcerative colitic digestive troubles and gout.
Emptiness, ecstasy, studying the force of another’s laziness as a math equation so his
overenthusiastic personality doesn’t affect the results.
Thinking about how dark it is outside and then the other darkness.
Cell phones are killing the honeybee!
May 19, 2011
I'm resting my head on HD, Helen of Egypt
The cantaloupe was not quite ripe enough
The SUV with Pennsylvania plates took one
and a half spaces. Are you new in the building?
Well sort of, a visitor for two weeks, blonde hair,
black sunglasses, and he looks like a young
Tod Colby. Maca, maca, maca, maca, buffered C,
and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. First Avenue
to the L Train to Union Square to the Q to DeKalb
A woman with two young girls and a child in a stroller
apologizes. It stops raining and I'm in the classroom
The young people write about their relationships
and their pain. My cell phone jingles. Salsa dancing
in Spanish Harlem, Do you want me to come over?
What now? Spooning my body into his, yours, ours.
The kitten wore an automatic coffeemaker head-contraption lest she die of young age
When flanked all day by her elders. Who would expect her to think of anything but fish?
Past actions create suitable conditions (filleting).
The dreamers who live in Macy’s window,
Exhibitionists in murky rainy even-(ing) breathing,
Curtains that separate us from out bodies, our neighbors, our lovers.
She removes the pantyhose off her baby bump.
The rose bloom Rube Goldberg contraption.
Ralph Lauren cries on Oprah when discussing designing Dylan’s wedding gown.
Slack jawed and dim-eyed,
Acting out of resentments old as oysters.
Suffering makes us less lonely
(Tethered to our tears)
Confrontation is unfortunately coded in DNA.
May 20, 2011
Down Avenue A, over Third Street, through
the garage and across Houston. Chain up my bike
squeeze knees against upper arms and lift up
feet and diaphragm like a mosquito in the rain,
gliding over Bleeker, Bowery, Fourth Street
to Avenue A. In the rain, in the rain, in the rain,
it never stops raining. Do your brakes work in the rain?
Does your bladder stay healthy as you age or
do you let echo photos invade and shut down your
computer. Bloody nose and food poisoning interrupt
my daily accomplishments. Starksnet is a super saboteur
with a digital code that looks legitimate, a little like
Typhoid Mary speeding at the speed of sound
I climb under the blankets and drift off down the alley way
“Be cathartic, just not with me,” she kvetched.
Because she doesn’t look Jewish.
Gem Spa’s egg cream and B&H’s Dairy.
How much easier to toss it in the duskpan?
Because Earth is an unmade, wrinkled woman, mountains of pillows with dirty
Going through the Whitman period of grief.
LCD Soundsystems chant “I can change.”
Because every leaf with dewdrops is a mirror—even in Tompkins Square.
Because of the open floodgates—abysmal waste.
The supreme Azoth and toothfairy.
Because she has a ski-slope nose and faceted cheeks (an autumn leaf she is, bronze and
Eidetic mind spilling undamaged experience.
Because she’s caught in no-man’s land and can’t seal the deal.
Because she doesn’t look Hipster, except for her hair and nose.
May 21, 2011
There is a lightness in the sky and the rain has stopped
So have all our dreams of wrong turns. I'm as distressed
as you are, but things were spinning too rapid and
someone is using all of the washers in the basement.
When I opened the door from the airport, I could smell
and hear a stomach virus, lost in a maze of narrow streets
as a rickshaw driver helped me look for oatmeal. Drumming,
relentless drumming, vibrating trees and people, vibrating
virus Stay home and lose myself in Conrad's distraught
and dark heart. Three naps later reformat a long document
with jpgs. Memories that I can't remember recorded.
Even though it's drizzling, I can hear the birds. Hungry
but it's not wise to eat after 8 pm and chocolate is always
nice as I gear up for midnight writing and reading.
Death, money, romance—morning thought #1, #2, #3 (in that order)
Referring to ourselves as characters in a story under 25 pages written by an
author under 25.
Prayer cards crammed in envelopes with Virgin stamps (each Virgin costs heaven)
Or converting our bat mobile into a convertible, driving down the expressway,
expressing ourselves expressively for today.
Hey—romance, money, death—weather moves west to east, is a left-handed mistress.
Moon Lady bored of being a wan bride, sitting at a set table,
Setting an injurious example,
Eating half a pound of tasteless animal crackers.
At Tea & Sympathy, a TV series set (nothing but inedible stand-ins).
Details are still being worked out,
Nevertheless, she could barely tear herself away from the banquet.
Look at how she leaps,
Trying to break through the adhesions.
Why nine guys with bats pound on a diamond, their secretive stares—spitting.
May 22, 2011
Light flickers through the leaves. Another overcast morning
My first shower was with my first lover on Brooks Street in Detroit .
My first car was a Ford Maverick and I got two tickets in the first week.
Do I remember my childhood or do I remember remembering?
Under billing, do you see a five digit zip code or are there nine.
Before the man retired he was a supervisor of software designers,
Now he checks out groceries for Trader Joes, part-time
at $12 an hour. Gramma, I'm over here. Get me Get me Get me .
I'm an evil princess or a fairy cat woman and they always get away.
Two hours earlier than East Village nightlife, easily I slide
into a parking space. People often say things that they don't
really mean. Sometimes they say them hundreds of times, like,
I'll never leave you and we're going to be together for a very long time.
Put stamp here or you will not get this. Yearning
Determines the mail you receive.
Cat sitter’s on vacation in Turkey with friendly strays,
catlike following her noise and the kindness of lovers.
Today’s the end of the world, plus it’s day 14!
Another TV show with the line: “Oye, it appears this man was murdered.”
It’s time to push, said to pregnant woman and the boy failing geometry.
A death haiku for the man who lived in my body before me.
Cat sitter wrote Turkey is making her ears oily and eyes leaky.
End of word didn’t end the world.
Thin cabbage soup for breakfast,
Wild oyster mushrooms.
Who’s the mouse here?
Just a few more years of Martine.
NOTE: One May day, Barbara Henning and Martine Bellen were talking about possible poetic projects and writing constraints. Barbara suggested working with the sonnet form—write one line an hour for fourteen hours for fourteen days. Martine was excited by the process, and they decided to try it together. Barbara picked up a 4 x 6 index card, noting that there were exactly 14 lines on each card, perfect for the project. So they each took fourteen cards to write fourteen lines on each one. After assembling the lines of the sonnets, both poets edited. Consequently, they each wrote 14 x 14 x 14. Peep/Show Poetry is alternating each poet’s fourteen sonnets.
MARTINE BELLEN (www.martinebellen.com) is the author of seven collections of poetry including, most recently, GHOSTS! (Spuyten Duyvil) and 2X2 (BlazeVOX [Books]). She has been a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy and a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship.
BARBARA HENNING is the author of three novels, seven books of poetry and a series of photo-poem pamphlets. Her most recent books are a collection of poetry and prose, Cities & Memory (Chax Press 2010), a novel, Thirty Miles to Rosebud (BlazeVox 2009), a collection of object-sonnets, My Autobiography (United Artists 2007), and a book of interviews, Looking Up Harryette Mullen (Belladonna, 2011) She is presently teaching for Naropa University and Long Island University in Brooklyn.