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However a light may come
through vaporative
glass pane or dry dermis
of hand winter bent
I follow that light
capacity that I have
cup-sized capture
snap-like seizure I
remember small
is less to forget
less to carry
tiny gears mini-
armature I gun
the spark light
I blink eye blink
at me to look
at me in
light eye
look twice
and I eye




When I want to write seriously I think of people like
dg for whom I wrote a long poem for whom I revised
until the poem forgot its way back troubled I let it go when
you love something let it go if it returns be a good mother
father welcome the poem open armed pull out the frying
pan grease it coat it prepare a meal
apron and kitchen sweat labor
my love my sleeves pushed
to elbows like the old days a sack
of flour and keys I push them
typography and hotcakes work
seduce a poem into believing
I can home it I can provide it
white gravy whatever the craving
poem eat and lie down full
poem rest here full don’t
lift a single l




Strange how lying on this side works
yet on my back I grieve and turning
to my left I rewind to a child’s world
so I re-turn back over to the first
position of poesis prenascent page
before any material thing makes
in this right-side peace I work most
nights I greet open-eyed delicate
pronunciations like thank you I thank
the empty room I still my body I work hard
not to slip a centimeter in dark work not to
interrupt my own conversation I move
my mouth as if silently reading as if a begin-
ner or courting a friendship careful holding
to my chest small gifts tight 3-lettered
words in 3-word phrases I welcome in
the new new.




if I read you
what I wrote bear
in mind I wrote it





down only
so         that
I remember




I have always wanted opaque to mean see-through, transparent. I’m disheartened to learn
it means the opposite. Why this instinct to assign a definition based on sound. O-PĀK
I interpret the O: open P: soft Ā: airplane or directional flight  K: cut through / translating to
that which is or allows air, airy, penetrating light, transparency. To say, You don’t fool me
for a second you’re opaque. To say, I’m partial to opaque objects I delight in luminosity. To say,
I’m interested in this painting on glass opaquely bright. I understand the need to define
as a need for stability. That I and you can be things, standing understood, among each other.
One word can be a poem believe it, one word can destroy a poem dare I. Say I am writing
to penetrate the opaque but I confuse it too often. I negotiate instinct when a word of lightful
meaning flips under / buries me in the work of blankets.




God, just don’t write a poem about writing. Bo-ring.

Says my contemporary artistic companionate, a muscular observation and I agree. A poem about writing poems, how. Boring as it is, it asks me to do. I couldn’t any other thing tonight. I sat I wrote about writing. I write I sit about writing. I’m about to write about it, writing and sitting. I will write and sit with my writing. It’s satisfying to sit when I write.

Defamiliarize writing then, somebody says okay I’m not sitting then I say to somebody. I’m chewing at a funeral and. I’m nibbling my pulp knuckles. I’m watching a man with a stain on his. Pants always wrinkle in this heat, gnats and humidity. I walk to the front pew to make a lewd, joke. I regard laughter from the man in the. Pants are always honest I mean really heavy at a summer burial. Yet he doesn’t ever cry, the stained man, why. When I observe nothing (unusual) I do nothing (unusual) in response. New or novel. Real lit relics (!) on these occasions. In ritual: nobody’s learning, true. And this lewd it’s dumb. Like the way I put up my dukes when I observe the cowboy kneel. He’s praying he’s asking. He doesn’t see me, my gesture’s futile. What am I doing here, writing. What am I doing here righting, the page at a funeral.




When I stay up late I have thoughts, continually pen-marked by the clicking-on
of an air conditioner a cutting coolness or imbalance I hear so clearly
in critique. Yet nuance saves a line and looking / space / in the trees, I watch our dog
bounce carrying the bone of a sheep’s leg. I notice the carcass and her bark: both absent.
So I learn to write around it, the meat, in wide circles to be heard. When a friend says
I believe you’re privileged by being so closely under, I ruffle I ease. It’s not easy.
Who’m I speaking to so often no one if not the friend. On the road to Shiprock I count
eight dust devils spiraling at once in proximity all in, a line. Then only seven.
What causes reduction in this instance? I’m tempted by the bed next to my desk, yet
the desk next to my bed “sounds” better sometimes. I don’t want to hear a fiction writer say,
This is why I don’t read poetry. I mean, he said it not me. Of course: influence(s). Where do I
consider myself among them she asks. A tick head burrows in the skin of a question. I glue
the coffee cup to my lips, blow that heat. The sun’s not up yet the birds begin first
5:06 am. A signal. Lie down closely my skin to sheet and pillow now the eyes orbit
the white star of a Caps Lock light STOP don’t revise a word comma semicolon or.


Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier holds a BFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA with Honors from Bard College. She resides in Tsaile, AZ on the Navajo Nation and is an adjunct faculty member at Diné College. She has served as a contributing editor to Drunken Boat. Her poems have recently appeared in The American Poet, The American Reader, The Kenyon Review Online, American Indian Journal of Culture and Research and the PEN America site. Her first chapbook of poetry is titled, Chromosomory (Q Ave Press, 2010) and forthcoming manuscript is titled WHEREAS.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2014

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