Thursday, September 30, 2010


I am working on a series that has only been born in the sense that a fetus is a baby. It will be called "Études." Étude comes from the French, meaning study. An étude is a piece meant, through kind-of musical acrobatics, to force precision in the fingers. What's funny about the études is that, though they're meant for study, they comprise some of the most beautiful music written for piano (or harpsichord, guitar, etc.).

My études are a study of place, based on the idea of places that exist in memory as bearers, guardians, even containers of memory. Physically, such places might still exist, though of course they'd be felt and experienced in the present context, and so they cannot be the same places.

What we do not study may fall prey to forgetting, and what what disappears from lack of study we may never learn the corners, the nooks, the crawl spaces of. The dexterity we acquire from such study is not for others' amusement but for ourselves, that we might be able to say we own what we have seen and done, what has been done to us.

This one is a rough first draft. No idea where it will come in the series.

Étude, corridor

You understand that what you have seen
occurs only once.
Is a flipper's tip disappearing
off the coast. Is an ailing comet. If
it's too narrow to turn around,
the thing will vanish.

How could it be in the first place?
What can touch it?
Questions for the creator, if
He or She is home.

Are you ready to speak this place
into existence? Have you sucked enough
from the bone?

If this should be the last place
you study before you blot him out,
call him once on the hall's black phone.

Let the ringing be a resting place.
Let the ringing wail down the hall.
Let the hall be a tunnel too narrow to turn around in.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rather nice.

Your submission to Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art
Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art
Add to Contacts

Dear Jamie Edlin:

Thank you for sending us your work.

Unfortunately this particular manuscript was not the right fit for Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, but we were very impressed by your writing. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else.

We look forward to reading more.


The Editors of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art

2010-06-07 16:28:50 (GMT -3:00)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In My Parents' Kitchen: A Free Write

The kitchen ticks. This would be true if there weren't a clock; parents' kitchens simply tick. Hotter here than last time, and there is heavily leafed water, rather than ice, collecting itself on the pool cover. There is no one here. When there is no one here in your apartment, it means you are free to sing out loud, wear nothing, say nothing, tinker. In your parents' house, when no one is here, you are free to stare out the back window, contemplate what Home is, watch the wooden dragonfly wobble on the porch.

It is as it is when the whole house sleeps and you--only you--are awake. You do and do not wish to be the only one awake, and you feel the world's mouth open wide, as if to swallow you. Unless you pray.

There are house plants. There are pets. There are new appliances, sugar cereal, one or two things you don't recognize. In your absence, rejection letters came in pairs. (And here, it is important to distinguish homophones: pairs, not pears.) They threaten to choke you, but you see that the kitchen clock ticks. So you resonate your vocal chords, as you would if there were someone to speak to. Your name first: . There is your voice. You decide it should still be heard.

At a reading, there was this line:
Chimes in a darkened house.

As long as there is a line you remember, you will write lines others will remember. Remember this, like you remember:

Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me
'til I come marchin' home


Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree...
Do you still want me?

Songs sung last time you were in this kitchen, when ice hung about the deck, drapes on a stage. Somehow your heart got lighter, fingers laced beneath it. Somehow a straighter spine, as if the little sparrows that drink the heavily leafed water pooling on the pool flocked to your back, got in and knotted themselves like musical notes along its length.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eros and Anteros

When given the words:



There were Callas's arias
in their mother's crinkled bedclothes,
ione trapped in her cedar chest sachets.

They had whirligigs out
in the yard, spinning
pinwheels and wobbling ducks.

Anteros watched them once
for an hour after that accidental
gulp of his father's anis. He caught them--
twice--winking at him.
Meanwhile, Eros burned hair
in the upstairs bathroom.

They had inside games
others envied. One
was called "Threshold."

Some hot, wet-blanketed
afternoons, drooped on the staircase,
one brother would softly say
threshold and the other'd
understand. They'd play:

Eros at his mother's spindle,
balancing her records. Blindfolded
Anteros guessing the tunes
with his tongue, which had kissed
every neighborhood girl.

When Eros was crippled
one Winter, they stayed in, wore
their mother's negligées.
And Anteros told his brother
of these girls, their little mouths
like rain-dampened sugar, like
river moss. Their little
waists in his hands
like warm, combed lambs.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rilke, Kaminsky, Millay

"Who, if I cried out, might hear me-among the ranked Angels?
Even if One suddenly clasped me to his heart
I would die of the force of his being. For Beauty is only
the infant of scarcely endurable Terror, and we
are amazed when it casually spares us.
Every Angel is terrible.
And so I check myself, choke back my summoning
black cry. Who'll help us then? Not Angels,
not Mankind; and the nosing beasts soon scent
how insecurely we're housed in this signposted World.
And yet a tree might grow for us upon some hill
for us to see and see again each day. Perhaps
we have yesterday's streets. Perhaps we keep
the pampered loyalty of some old habit
which loved its life with us - and stayed, never left us."
How longer to live upon Earth!"

--Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Die erste Elegie," THE DUINO ELEGIES

"The back of her knee: a blessed territory, I keep /
my wishes there.
But Natalia, beside me, turns the pages,
what happened and did not happen
must speak and sing by turns.
On the night I met her, the Rabbi sang and sighed,
god's lips on his brow, Torah in his arms.
- I unfastened her stockings, worried

that I have stopped worrying.
She slept in my bed--I slept on a chair,
she slept on a chair--I slept in the kitchen,

she left her slippers in y shower, in my Torah,
her slippers in each sentence I spoke.
Someone else is on this page, writing. I attempt /
to move my fingers faster than she.
And each night, looking up, we saw ourselves:
a man and a woman, whispering Lord,
one word the soul destroys to make clear."

--Ilya Kaminsky, from "Natalia," DANCING IN ODESSA

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beautyis not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."

--Edna St. Vincent Millay, from "Spring," SECOND APRIL

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Older." This one is a baby, mere hours old.


silentia muta noctis – deep speechlessness of night”

—Anne Carson, “Nox”

Photo by Nicolette Van Doorn

I sometimes think I am older

than anyone. Older than

my mother, even now

disguising her grey

over the kitchen sink.

Older than Millay, who

around this time years ago

interrogated returning Spring.

I have no words

for the dunes. Theirs is a history

of collected animals long gone,

crushed to sand by

marching years.

Deepest cloud shadows pass.

If there is

anything older than clouds,

let it speak.

I hear thunder. Then

I remember

something older

than mothers.

Older than sand, salt. Than

calm above clouds or ground water

below: the spirit of what is loved.

Thread so fine. Less

than spider’s silk, knotted

at each worldly thing, tying it

secretly to Earth. Each time

I pass

beach grass

foot path

lost ring

face-up mirror

abandoned couch

I feel a tug.

In the deep speechlessness of night

it was once thought

the brain rested. We now know

it travels. Speaks in our place

In imaginary fields

At imaginary podiums.

It says Remember

while our mouths remain still.

It tugs at the thread,

the day’s face-up mirrors.

I wake with the strangest feeling.

as though, having been somewhere,

I harvested someone else’s life,

was harvested myself.

Was older, even, than

the scythe doing the work.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ay, a longe tyme yt has beene.

Oh, four followers, here is something I read yesterday which (imagine it if you can) soothes as it delivers a pistol shot:

"The artist seeks out the luminous detail and presents it. He does not comment."
-Ezra Pound

The artist also goes for months without writing. And then writes. And then goes for weeks without writing. And then writes. And then only days. And this is my goal: for those days without writing to seem as long as those arid months.

I have unearthed a red notebook from Oscar the papermaker, and have found this:

Faith, a twig, a string of dental floss,
a soap sud.