Featured Poet

Daphne Gottlieb


( San Francisco, California )

maps and legends
(for Miriam)

Does it hurt? Of course it hurts.

Knowing I am going away past the sharp edge of the world, she
knows we need magic, we need magic stronger than words, since
just words cannot save us.  I follow her to the place where the
machines hum and draw blood since  we need strong magic, need
to rip the skin, let blood, and change the body for life, so
it knows.

This is where the journey begins.  We follow royalty there, we
follow gangs there, we follow brides-to-be there, we follow
prisoners there, we follow thieves and sailors there.  We walk
through the open door and look for what we need.

This is where the journey begins.  I leave now, or I will not
be gone for months, or I will never leave.  Does it hurt? Of
course it hurts.  Home is where the heart is or home is where
the body is.  I travel light.  I never let go of her hand, home.
She is my heart.

We walk through the open door and look for what we need.  Beyond
the edge of the world, there are dragons.  Their pictures are on
the wall, like WANTED posters.  WANTED: what we need.  I am already
more woman than girl, so there is no need to slit open my chin,
mark the equator.  No need for love charms, no pierced hearts, no
roses.  No stars, one for each year behind bars, no barbed wire
for an imprisoned life.  Not the pig and the rooster, to keep me
from drowning, nor the legend H-O-L-D-F-A-S-T — there will be
no ropes where I go.

Serious magic: when you bride the machine, you can never go back, 
even after death: This is where the body was found, before the
edge, before the dragons.  This is how they know the body: White
female, 5'11", 160  pounds.  Identifying marks:  Even after days
in the water, death knows you by your magic: the water swelling
the body, the body more water than blood or bone, and still the
body speaks after death, says: Blood, North, South, Sailor, Thief,
King, Queen, Ace.  The Spade brings luck, as does the dice.  But
we need more than luck.  Protection is more than luck.  There are
dragons past the edge.   I never let go of her hand.

Birds know magic like they know home.  Their hearts beat too fast
for land and carry them into the air, beat, beat, a signal on a
drum or a trumpet, a knocking or strong pulsation, beat, my heart,
her, beat a tattoo into my ribs.  My heart is in my mouth.  I
swallow.  Birds know magic like they know home, where the swallows
return every year without fail, and begin rebuilding.  The machine
builds its bride, rips into the skin.  You can never go back.

We tell the man:  swallows, we need swallows.  He nods.  He knows.
He crosses me over the equator, the line between, over the edge,
there are dragons out there.  He nods and says, “where?”

Place is everything.  Either you are home, or you are not.  Either
you are on one side of the equator, or the other.  Either you are
safe, or.  She speaks.  “On her hands.  Protect her hands, so that
nothing falls through them.”  He nods.  “On her heart.  Protect
her heart, so nothing can hurt there.”  He nods again, slowly, the
machine purrs harder, waiting.  “On her throat, so nothing can stop
her voice when she needs it, on her legs, so nothing can keep her
from running, on her head, so—”

—so she sings the song of the machine and the machine sings my blood 
and swallows, my hands, my heart, the swallows will bring me home
when it is time to rebuild; place is everything, you can never go
back.  There are dragons out there.

We walk through the open door.  Out on the edge, this is where the
body was found, where the journey begins:  I am sailor, thief, queen.
I am home.  I am only girl in the spaces between powerful magic, what
swallows bring in their mouths to nest with.  Their hearts beat too
fast to keep them on the earth, does it hurt? Her heart beats a tattoo
into my ribs, blood, of course it hurts, and every year, WANTED, the
swallows  return home.  H-O-L-D-F-A-S-T:  On this journey, I never
let go of her hand.

anne's neck
(for Anne Marbury Hutchinson, excommunicated, and exiled
in 1637 from Massachusetts Bay Colony)

                   It is not my voice, but God's. 

The first time,
He swings my mouth open
like the church door in a monsoon.
It takes both hands pressed
under my jawbone
to close it.

The second time, not even
my husband's hands
can stop my teeth's chattering.
Syllables fall, hard fast hail
on my frightened children.

He is practicing. Suddenly,
I am His book of scripture, flipped open.
Words stumble off my tongue
until the covers slap together again.
My children clamber for cover,
cover their mouths at night,
save the youngest, who speaks my babble back to me.

I tell God He has gone too far,
holding His seminars in my living room.
He brings the women. Then their men.
God scoffs. "This is living," He says,
and raises my arms high.
"Hallelujah!" we cry.
God loves the attention.

This is not proper, I tell God.
"Don't tell God what to do," He says,
and throws me on the ground.
I grow thick with child.

When the elders call me to trial,
He is nowhere to be found.
It is my baby and I alone who crunch
five miles through the snow.

God, you will get us all killed, I whisper.
He doesn't answer.

After two days on the witness stand,
He leaps from my mouth
to threaten the men of the town.
He debates them on His scripture,
grandstanding His knowledge before them.
I crumble back in my chair when His will be done.

"You sound like a man," the elders say.
Not my voice but God's, I tell them.
They misunderstand.

"Cast out proud Jezebel," says the town.
The ice burns my feet like sin.
I fall and fall, trail my scatter of children
like breadcrumbs.
When I cast my body into the snow,
God uprights me over and over,
places my feet one in front of the other,
and pushes.

We stop, sudden as comfort.
Where are we? I ask him.
He laughs, knocks my children to the ground.
His voice tightens on me like a noose.
"You'll love it," he says.
"I've named it Anne's Neck."

transcendental housewife

Break                       it                          down.
It is  essential  to read  the social text  at  the  time  of
the                  industrial                    revolution

Dishes                                                 again.

Civilization,        ergo      the       society,        ergo

dishes                                                    and

the                                                   family.
The bubbles in the sink,                            my hands,
sink   below    the   surface.      There’s    more    there.

As hearthkeeper, the woman
                                                  is the axis
everything revolves                           around my hands
to     the      smallest    unit     of     society       and
reflect the light,
                                      the ceiling, everything
around me,thus becomes
emblematic of civilization
                                               in the bubbles
in   the    sink,    the    word     bubble,    the    lobes,
the  bubbles  are in  the Bs,  the folly of  the  e,  tongues
make                     no                          mistakes

thus,  when  man   self-exiles  into  nature,  it  is   women
                                           the o of the world
which he is eschewing;
                                                 in sweeping,
the joy of collecting small worlds,
a  full-frontal  assault  on  even  the  smallest  dust  mote
contains                    the                         world
the cult                                       all the worlds
of true womanhood
                                                       I know
and the permissible
                                            gathered together
roles of women
                                                  by my hands
through their inscription
                                     scattered into the light
by                                                        men

anything                  is                        possible.

speak truth?
(because Sojourner Truth's speeches only exist as transcriptions)

Her words are not her words. Truth cannot move through translation,
so what is it that comes back?  She never returns, she was all breath
or a body:

"Wall, chilern,	
			(The wall, children,
war der is so much racket 
			in whom it so much gives there,
dar must be somethin' 		
			must be slightly more kilter 	
out o' kilter.  I  tink dat 
			outside. I think this one 
'twixt de niggers of de Souf
			those betwixt niggers South
and de womin at de Norf
			and the women at North, 
all talkin' 'bout rights
			all the rights seizing the white man, 
de white man will be
			the white man am rather soon will be
 in a fix pretty soon
But what's all dis here 
			But what is the end of this one
talkin' bout?"
			here talking?) 

What is the end of this one here talking?

We destroyed it at the language.
To be written:  if it could not be written? The woman becomes
internal message.  It  (not she) uncovers its  (not her) center,
and everything that they saw was normal  (Sojourner's breast
is invisible once again, not seen,
a myth, a screen.   She's not black in words.
Only the page is white here.)
The action is politic elision.
The landscape is judgement.
To be like, it could not be written? 
The woman transforms
the inner message.  She's said. 
That's what she said.
We never heard her at all.

I - Writing Inside the Motherskin
II - In the Kafka Labyrinths
III - Opening the Lid of Night
IV - Archeology


Current Issue - Winter 2002