The Middle of Nowhere Somewhere

THREE POEMs by Bernadette Mayer

August 12, 2015  By Bernadette Mayer

One of our greatest living poets, Bernadette Mayer writes poems that convince with their freedom to swerve and digress, warp and arrest, and that truest of American pleasures that comes from sometimes simply just not giving a shit. In these new poems, her sense of reality continues to be ever expansive. The sexuality of arachnids, the elementalism of squirrels and emails, not to mention the Family Dollar Store, all are invited to the poet’s consciousness which doesn’t so much stream as dance. “A line / Break could reflect / the way the sun breaks,” she confesses, at the opening of Leg of Lamb, and of course what I love is not just the sense of poetry’s mimetic playfulness which her work duly captures but the larger possibility in Mayer’s poetry, always, that the nature of perception, reality itself, is a poetic act.  –AF

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     OH WHAT


Are you called?
What flower would be a serial killer?
Say the tigers but the lions say
A flower can be a spider, but never
A killer though it might kill in a just war
And the locusts contend no war can be just
Unless gay spiders can fight in it
But all spiders are gay, say the mythological
Daddy-long-legs, I disagree, my name is
Hibiscus, I grew up in a commune in Krakatoa
Where I learned to think independently
You can all go to hell I feel, I mean
You can get wherever you want to go but not here
Unless you want to have tea with me
And the wolf spiders who keep to themselves

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A line
Break could reflect
The way the sun breaks
Through the clouds or breakfast
Or, this rainbow begins here
And then’s over
The aurora borealis can be
All over the sky
Wherever you look
Not in one place
Like north
Up and down
East and west, southwest
Sid-saddle, acrobatic as a squirrel
Is an e-mail directional?
I guess I’ll just think
And be as smart as in dreams
So they won’t come to get me
And take me away to
Zanzibar, the mental asylum, the hospital
The jail, turn the line’n you wind up in
Antarctica Australia Mesoamerica mesothelioma
The middle of nowhere somewhere
Where somehow you’ve left all the slush
Behind back there where the line begins, ends
Do we notice? Yes
Are we sorry? No, maybe, always
Sometimes never we will never come to an end because
Starting over’s our addiction, a dead
End and where does that leave

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Out the somber window that shows
Hibernation trees, the water pump, the road
Nothing falling from the gray sky yet
The room I’m in’s too clean, the fire’s failed
I’m doing the French fries on the top of the stove
The mail’s failed to come, the turkey had no liver
But it may work to write this poem unless
It gets stuck like a car by the creek
The creeks are over the top, be wary

Of them, of getting mail from a bank
And a flyer from the Family Dollar store
In which everything is more than a dollar
Except sardines, I don’t even have a bank
Account but I saw a rainbow in the woods once
When the sun got low enough to shine
Under the earth’s cloud cap, I thought
That’s not a bad deal on dish detergent

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Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn, New York, and received her B.A. from the New School for Social Research in 1967. She is the author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry. From 1972 to 1974, Mayer and conceptual artist Vito Acconci edited the journal 0 TO 9, and in 1977 she established United Artists Press with the poet Lewis Warsh. She has taught writing workshops at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City for many years, and she served as the Poetry Project’s director. Her latest books include Eating The Colors of A Lineup of Words: The Early Books of Bernadette Mayer (Station Hill Press) and Sonnets: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition (Tender Buttons Press), which was nominated for the Firecracker Awards by The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses.

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