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Joan Retallack Four Poems 

N O T  A  C A G E


Scientific inquiry, seen in a very broad perspective may

see Foot 1957, also Westermarck 1906, Ch. XIII

To man (sic) the world is twofold, in accordance with

that witness is now or in the future

It wasn’t until the waitress brought her Benedictine and she

Villandry, “Les Douves” par Azay le Rideau

mine. Yours, CYNTHIA.

Not a building, this earth, not a cage,

The artist: disciple, abundant, multiple, restless

a forgery: Opus loannes Bellini

We named you  I thought the earth

is possible I could not tell

to make live and conscious history in common

and wake you find yourself among

and wake up deep in the fruit

Did you get the money we sent?

I smell fire


1. Russia, 1927

God, say your prayers.

You were begotten in a vague war

sidelong into your brain.

In Letter Three & Four (as earlier) the narrator is

North Dakota Portugal Moorhead, Minnesota

The lights go down, the curtain opens: the first thing we

gun, Veronica wrote, the end.


Tomorrow she would be in America.

Over forty years ago

a tense, cunningly moving tale by the Hunga—

Then he moved on and I went close behind.

Interviewers: What drew a woman from Ohio

to study in Tübingen?  American Readers

with this issue former subscribers to Marxist Perspectives

The shadow of the coup continues to hover over Spain

In the ordinary way of summer

girls were still singing

like a saguaro cactus from which any desert wayfarer can draw

as is Mr. Fox, but in literature

Twenty five years have gone by

Ya se dijeron las cosas mas oscuras

The most obscure things have already been said

Elliptical Ice Terriers


Just as your blades describe an icy metaphysic of

parallel curves, I will be your personal pronoun

for the duration of this sentence. You will be my

personal pronoun for the duration of this sentence.

It’s all about remaining in motion. Exquisite poetries

and theories of everything propel flying spins,

no-hands bicycle arias on the way home. More

reciprocal alterity, more biomimicry, less blood

sausage fealty, explosions of sweetest beauty.

My child, why repeat what some poet or another

has already said—we live our lives forever taking

leave—when a custom-fitted speech act can be

yours within 24 hours. With it you can perform

rites and ceremonies, weddings, baptisms,

extreme unctions, forgiveness of sins, funerals—

visit correctional facilities, start your own church.

None Too Soon


Located in memories without precedent, fine stock of syllables

not yet squandered in pliant affirmation. Don’t be scared. The

more non-existent of the gods are the only ones counting your

blunders. Hard to forget what’s never been known for sure.

Yearning minds conjure thoughts bound to deform the

musculature of the most determined smile. The only

worthwhile thought experiment of which I’m currently aware

is to construct a logical space-time bracket in which all of us

—animal, mineral, vegetable—are sometimes dreaming.

The History of Being Sche

Keyword: Soft


Easy to mold, cut, compress, fold; not hard or firm to the touch.

Having a smooth surface or texture that is pleasant to touch;

not rough or coarse: soft crushed velvet — her hair felt very soft.

Rounded; not angular. Having a pleasing quality involving a subtle

effect or contrast rather than sharp definition — the soft glow of

the lamps, the moon’s pale light cast soft shadows. Quiet and

gentle — they spoke in soft whispers. Not strong or violent — a soft

breeze rustled the trees. Sounding as a fricative — as c in ice. Falling

or likely to fall in value. Sympathetic, lenient, compassionate, especially

to a degree perceived as excessive; not strict or sufficiently strict —

Julia’s soft heart was touched by his grief. Conciliatory; soothing — he

was no good with soft words, gentle phrases. Not strong or robust.

Requiring little effort. Regarded more as entertainment than as basic —

fashion is regarded as soft news. Willing to compromise. Weak; foolish;

silly — he must be going soft in the head. Suggestive or erotic but not

explicit. A person who readily does what is asked. (fr. Old English sōfte’ — agreeable, calm, gentle.) 

NOTE: “Sche” is the earliest spelling of the English female pronoun I’ve found. The “c” gives the word an internal edge that I like. Soft, definitions and usages, are from the American Online Dictionary; until recently, pre-installed in every MAC computer.


“Not a Cage” is from Joan Retallack, Procedural Elegies / Western Civ Cont’d (New York: Roof Books, 2010). The other poems are forthcoming in  BOSCH’D — Fables, Moral Tales & Other Awkward Constructions, Litmus Press.

Photos of Joan Retallack are by David Garland.

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