GUIDEBOOKS FOR THE DEAD

Five New Poems

November 11, 2015  By Cynthia Cruz
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Inescapably, Cynthia Cruz’s poems are otherworldly visitations. Yet upon closer inspection, all of their ingredients eerily bear the markings of this world, not another one, though the poems in these new sequences have obsessive titles pointing to the dead, both as an ominous totalizing category as well as a singular, specific voice that the speaker keeps conjuring into obscure influence. One feels these poems have their part not so much in pagan celebration as in a black mass. The poems are spectral rituals where objects of food and clothing, chemical compounds and a constantly shifting, disfigured sense of place holds hands quietly. I marvel at the slight ripples and torn seams of these short, yet bottomless lyrics for their anomalous formal choices: the calming turn between long and short breath lines; the occasional discontinuation of punctuation; the overall stillness of elongated lines as if consciousness has been arrested. In Duras: The Flock, she writes “Duras is part of a flock of voices: Duras, Lispector, Cixous, Bachmann.” No other poet I know is as capable as Cruz is of making such uncanny company among such modern female visionaries, but these poems prove to me that this poet—silently communing, warping the ordinary—herself is one.  

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor


 

 

GUIDEBOOKS FOR THE DEAD

 

Walnut bread
Fresh milk, and silver
Tins of German chocolate.

 

Books in piles and letters from father
Before he went blind.

 

Old ripped Greek
Blankets for the two cats.

 

It isn’t much.

 

But it is Enough.

 


 

 

GUIDEBOOKS FOR THE DEAD

 

Drink tap water only in large cities.

 

Drink boiled water and thinned tea.

 

It is not advisable
Except in hotels.

 

Take tablets of Resochin Bayer.

 

Then let it sit
For ten minutes
In potassium permanganate.

 

Change sweat-soaked underwear.
Wash once a day with soap.

 

Don’t shower more than three times a day
Using one part mercuric chloride pre thousand.

 

When possible, peel fresh fruit. When not, wash with soap.

 


 

ON DURAS: THE WORD

 

The word, Duras, another word, not hers.

 

Donnadieu, her surname. Duras, the name of her father’s village. She renames herself. Quiet death.

 

“It’s not that you have to achieve anything, it’s that you have to get away from where you are.”

 

Duras, Duras. The name becomes her.

 


 

 

DURAS: THE FLOCK

 

Duras is part of a flock of voices: Duras, Lispector, Cixous, Bachmann. Duras is high priestess. She is also the bottom rung. This is how the flock works: everyone on top, everyone on bottom. All are one in the flock.

 

These ladies with smeared lipstick and torn hosiery. I find my place among them; I join the end of the queue, this parade of wrong voices. I find my place and I join them.

 

No shame, we swallow the shame and the shame becomes us. It is part of us now, not something to cut off or be rid of

 

Our words are tiny pills or bullets, each one packed with memory, packed with a multitude of meaning.

 

Our words are free of grammar and syntax. Our pages, filled with holes so that the others may join us. We are dumb as children. Curiosity, the thread that pulls us.

 

I find my place at the end of the line.
And I join them.

 


 

 

GUIDEBOOKS FOR THE DEAD

 

The soft machinery of photographs.

 

Memories of inherited sorrow, or questions, lost.

 

A summer of wool and excrement.

 

Rumors, inside the little black plastic box.

 

I hear his voice: an animal, a doll

 

Inside the puppet show.

 

Shit in a cardboard box. Nothing,
Just the matter of loss and dislocation.




Cynthia Cruz
Cynthia Cruz
Cruz is the author of three collections of poems: Ruin , published by Alice James Books in 2006, The Glimmering Room , published by Four Way Books in 2012, and Wunderkammer , her third collection, was published by Four Way Books in 2014. Her fourth collection How the End Begins also from Four Way Books, is forthcoming in 2016. Her essays and art writings have been published in Hyperallergic, The Enemy Reader, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Guernica. Cruz is also currently at work on two poetry anthologies: one of Latina poets and the other, a collection of poetry by female poets around issues of consumption and nourishment. She is also currently at work on a collection of essays on language and iterations of silence. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony as well as a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. Cruz earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in writing and an MFA in Art Criticism & Writing from the School of Visual Arts and is currently pursuing a PhD in German Studies at Rutgers University. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.









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