The Window, The Alley, The Criss-Cross Motion

Three New Poems by Albert Mobilio

June 1, 2016  By Albert Mobilio

These three new pairs of poems by Albert Mobilio are rare instances of artistic demolition and poetic erasure aimed inward. Artists and writers have long appropriated materials from the world, including other artists; our fading fad for erasure poetry yet another example. Often, the concept is all that matters and the source material is readily trampled upon. The concept at work here, one is happy to report, is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the poems themselves—in which each ‘pair’ is a truncated, redacted or reduced, entirely new version (or anti-version) taken from the text above. One thinks of the gorgeous ravages of Rosamond Purcell’s art—where books, dice, herring bones or other primordial bits of natural and manmade materials are set to fester, linger, auto-destruct (the image above is from Purcell’s Bookworm, from W.W. Norton). Yet Mobilio, like Purcell, isn’t after the cheap trick of chic ruins or easy implosion. (For me, the destructive impulse, even as “art,” tires quickly.) Instead, the poet has found a constraint that interrogates the finished original, and demanded from it a lessening, whether sibling or offspring, a sort of mental rhyme (or not) in dissolving form. A patient composure counterbalances the chaos of erosion. So the reader may judge for herself, even as the poet, musically and mysteriously, already has.

–Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor


The judgment scene



The judgment scene was laugh-track time we sought

tension between pulsing, neon bodies, their betrayals

oral & otherwise scary was the sense that human

touch was nothing more than loud more loudly

nights when trouble means an open mouth,

its portion divvied out to words so different from

each other you can’t circulate one noun among


Some god-forsaken spot men pulled their faces

toward then turned their faces back the way

they’re made we get the point—the window, the alley,

the criss-cross motion—no one wants to travel

unless the shoulder dips, the hand repeats

whatever hitch-hike works & straight again you

see that roman wall the higher up it goes we’re true


In the future our souls as thin as TV shows we wreck

the air for disembodied, snake-shaped sounds,

they fill the auditorium & feeble love

is nothing we can add much to except we can

make lists of what deserves to die & other numbered

fates bare-headed days allow

this span of glossy instants clocked & deeply rung


the scene


we sought

bodies, their betrayals

the sense

was nothing more


an open mouth,

different from

each noun among



the way:

the window

no one wants


the hand

works & you

see it goes higher up


souls wreck

the disembodied



nothing much, we

die & other numbered


this instant deep



In the midst of this widely unread



In midst of this widely unread life in the line

outside a washroom where truly we are as hollow

as our own confessions those shaken

out of us by close reading tomes about the middle

ages the sun darkening for a dying pope & wintry

crowns jeweled with groans we wore our sexual

sorrow to warm the indentation left in bed


If you wait long enough songs come they have

momentum that shows itself amid shouting as

the ambulance arrives we called

ourselves skyward rising through bluish haze,

the ignorant mouths their nouns around

us—winch, tube, carpet, hive, hiatus—altogether

unreasonably dense these sirens find their mark


The point of philosophy was saving whatever

face we could in this otherwise incurable

land its spat out river, smudged birds & fingernails

dirty with perplexities we strummed slick

smells from our hidden parts the breath glistens

like fresh meat cut, splayed & left for flies we brought

our wrath to perfection so it might finally end


the midst of this



unread line


as our

reading about

the darkening, dying

groans we




amid shouting as

we called

skyward, haze







muddy fingernails

we strummed

the breath

we brought

to perfection



This dancer is out



This dancer is out of step with that one whenever

the mood makes you wish you

weren’t as devout as you are your mental

equipment dependent on bread, smokeless cold

& brooms come home to roost in hairline

cracks only visible when close enough to sense

the empty knell our puny human strike allows


The nightfall was beauty was strange in its hills,

its desolations penciled on scrap paper,

letters to ancestors & you have become over

aware of mouth movements their history

bursting with cell block scenes & mispronunciations

of dirty words the sleepless camera’s

focus pulling back though the actor isn’t pleased


You bring money & show off your face & opposites

attract indifferently but that’s the loneliness

of sand that’s nothing to me & thoughts

by the millions go begging, truly an exalted life

you’re giving yourself to the agitated air,

smug boots & mock sensation: who are your gods,

are they the ones that fight the daytime’s fire


this dancer



step whenever

the mood makes


your mental


come home

visible to sense

the empty human


nightfall was

scrap paper,

you have


bursting with mispronunciations


dirty, sleepless,


show opposites—

that’s the loneliness


of nothing & thoughts



the agitated,

smug gods

are fire


The featured image is from Rosamond Purcell’s Bookworm

Albert Mobilio
Albert Mobilio
Albert Mobilio is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award. His books of poetry include Bendable Siege, The Geographics, Me with Animal Towering, Touch Wood. Games and Stunts, a book of short fictions, is forthcoming from Black Square Editions. He is an assistant professor of literary studies at the New School’s Eugene Lang College and an editor at Bookforum.

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