1. Classic, dead, rotting perfume. 1964. Cypress trees, dare I stare at Roman aqueducts, blank-eyed statues. Getting rid of the thing after it’s made. Afterwards, a Negroni. Modernism my favorite moment. Is this because I’m patient? Or because, like Erza Pound, I don’t want to remember anything, stuck in a tent, eating flies? 2. Shadows, trees, single file line, a French farm boundary. I had no idea you could erase the “you.” I didn’t realize others pound podiums in distress of excess. Loyal energy, I desire you, piss-smelling Naples, the freedom to confect sweetness at any old time. 3. How often does a work of art register a high bacteria count? Closed for swimming. Open for sunbathing. Just to be safe, I renewed my faith, apologizing to no one but myself, swimming inside the water. I am not your answer. The waves backtrack checking traffic. The avocado ripens in time for breakfast. 4. Wasn’t really listening until he said, “Style is superficial.” Really? Monotone, high arch all the same to us ants? I continued to not listen, the man megaphone who couldn’t say synonyms or facilitator without a stutter. Felt the urn within. It pulsed in my body. It shrank- blossomed in alternating breaths, the museum’s marble more dead than alive, wicked, excited about ending. 5. High-crested crane, the birds absolutely sing louder here (a red conditioning) in my mother’s garden. Burdock root salad, I could forgive an inhumane act. Over Japanese food, we discussed the possibility of humankind. Why not, what’s the point of not trying? I am its only author. 6. The kids tramp in the waves. The kids tramp in the rocks, tramp in sideways glint sun. When the sun’s out— a fellowship of others— a bruise darkening on my suntanned leg. The facts of my biography: I grew up in a teepee, distilled moonshine from my tears, mailed letters from inside the rough, left the matches at the last camp site. Recalibration, I get too excited starting again. 7. “You gave him the best years of your life,” which could have been true if I were someone else. A rompy-stomp collector of paint, a perfection of hardness. I move the beach towel at the last minute, the pink of my childhood in the foreground. The facts of myself add up to no facts. The facts of others implied. 8. Vigor, sexual enthusiasm, white hairs in private. To be touched like Odysseus, bathed and oiled after washing up on the beach. The spirit of hospitality creasing my body in a million folds. It doesn’t really matter except here. Just the facts: You’re sentimental, I’m not. The white billows. Did I get that right? 9. Authentic art, does it exist or spectator art or political or labor or authentic recycling, or bemused expression? You lied! I didn’t let you suffer enough. Authentic life, a grocery store list, a diary excerpt trashed in the car. The cataracts falling from my eyes. See with my eyes, what women did you miss? Broken terra-cotta star, airborne in every lifetime. 10. Courtyard as oracle. Complaint as oracle. Castration as oracle. Couple as oracle. Crowd as oracle. Contact as oracle. Conversation as oracle. Cassia as oracle. Compare as oracle. Coffin as oracle. Civilian as oracle. Circumference as oracle. Catherine as oracle. 11. One airplane flies above the lake. Blue, blue, green. “I have an idea,” to be fully open dilated, generous rejection, you don’t scare me. During the heat wave, my body relaxed, “confiscated studies” a measure of yearning. I inclined into my appetite, hungry, insatiable. 12. Catherine. Catherine. Catherine. Catherine. Catherine. Catherine Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. 13. Woke up. Coffee et cigarette. Yoga et water. Beach et sun. Writing at desk. Reading in bed. Side ponytail. Ingrown hair. Shower, nakedness, crème. More bed. Airplane tickets. Built the fire. Back in bed. Got up to make drink. Grilled vegetable dinner. Desk. Letters. Cigarette. Love letter. Back to beach to rescue lover on wayward wave. Back to bed. Orgasm. Back and forth death dream. 14. Ate dinner at my desk, the quotidian cliffhanger. The sausage perfectly cooked. Until next time. In the bridle of new forms, the world itself cooked. The fruit washed by hand, eaten by hand, picked by hand, the hooks don’t care if the rapture is forced. Remember, neither should you. 15. Apologia returned to sender. Postage due. Nine pages worth of intention, apologia, restatement, then a clue. Hyperbole. The goddess Isis mentioned. Needy, improvised, a twist. I don’t see a twist at all. “Please pass the mustard for my sausage.” Sometimes it lies straight. 16. Candlelite. Canskate. Candidate. Candente. A dressing room, a fitting room, you choose texture, smokiness, heartiness, elasticity, a Rogers Park corner coffee shop before I can go swimming. Coffee before beer. Singing before kissing. Sunscreen before sun. My navy blue shirt without the bra. My tits shaped against the wind. Summer buzzed in. A happy baby carrier. Breastfeeding, and body slings. Slave or straight, a tuna casserole addressed to everyone, and beer, cold sprung chamomile-nettled spring. 17. Tall willow teeth, tooth blessing, tooth country, a tininess described as unwieldy. My lap. A vaster plain. Work where none existed because that’s what I thought was expected of me. A wide worthiness wears the wool of my work, the tight plaid offspring warps the wainscoting, the senses de-sensed. Not much accomplished when it’s hot outside. The beach closed, again, the waves too high. The high bacteria count. Someone is lying, that’s how political office works. I hear the mice search for Parmigiano-Reggiano a sweep scurrying! Romano! Faster to crumb! 18. The swaddling unnecessary. I talk. I don’t listen. I sit around in my own room in my bathing suit in my pile of money, interacting less with the world. Objectively, and historically, this is an improvement. 19. Hello, it’s me. 20. From the loaded gun, a sign read, “To be continued…”
Catherine Theis is a Provost Fellow at USC, and lives in southern California. Her first book is called The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt Modern Poets, 2011). Catherine’s latest chapbook, The June Cuckold, a tragedy in verse, is published by Convulsive Editions.