By: Gabriella Mayer
Metal As Two Objects
Sorry, it turns out nothing is ever made for me. Or anyone. But everyone seems to have it more than me.
Nothing modern ever looks beautiful before its end. The modern likes to forget it will have an end -- either by accident or controlled detonations and fires.
All this armor without a harbor.
Shoved into another corner. All that armor quantified into the useful. Tell me of one that didn’t split open at the wrong
Oh, other armors work for people?
Who constructed mine?
I have a strongly worded letter to send them.
These days in this city, architecture is an armor against oxidation, habilitation, views of an open sky. The city armored against views of the moon. Has it been determined the moon got weaponized? What use is metal
against the wisdom of moonstone?
Great Grandma Hermine When Selling Her Husband’s Childhood Home in 1953
Time to sell Ediger-- sell my home,
Her husband said to her; more a summarization
than resignation. He didn’t want to admit
Johannesburg was a new home for them.
This nation, the butchery needed him more
than a rotting synagogue a continent away,
next door to his old home. The synagogue
had no more congregants. Neither did the home.
The job had been done for her. Government policy
in Germany ten years before turned the synagogue into a stable,
stomping grounds for horses still running away
from dying phoenixes’ fire. Turned the home Aryanized,
spilled red wine lingering. Turned the home forgetful,
of sounds of shoemaking and quiet Saturdays.
So much had changed: the new family living there
convinced she was a thief, their mandated schoolyard play
serving them well. But his family maintained light here for 300 years,
She exclaimed, glancing at the now-candle-less
stable in the entryway. She broke away from their silence
and punched holes into the basement wall.
The new family couldn’t turn their backs.
There were still pockets of light left by her husband’s five siblings,
Silverware, candelabras. A single glance
At her, her body flaking as salt. In Johannesburg,
he grew older as transparent salt. At least the new family
bought it rightfully now. The new family couldn’t deny them anymore,
who suffered in life because they were forced to turn and close the door.
Tall Warren, setting your body down a river. Silicon Warren, to mold myself from. Bipolar Warren, whose meds you pour down a drain. Warren of Calgary, drinking oil, from a Canadian town whose name is born from a hamlet in Scotland. An oil field controlled by machines and stock markets. Warren of mania and depression, hiding in dark rooms. The rooms covered in Portuguese translations. You tried to take me away, Warren, to a world far from my own. Warren, keeper of passports. You can’t make a new passport for me. They found your plans in the car trunk, Warren. Blurred Warren, a blurred war I can’t fight. Warren with a sound of a smile as we spoke of Calvin and Hobbes. Hobbes the tiger taken everywhere by Warren. Warren of colon cancer. I can’t say I’m not sorry to not feel anything. Warren, who I’ve long since mourned. You can’t try to drop me off at school. Oh War, my mom called you. War, she yelled as you vented to lovers on the phone. You spoke to them while I was licking paintbrushes in a Home Depot. You guessed a 2-year-old couldn’t hear you and confess, but left a camcorder on. Warren, the only thing I call you. My lips move short, sitting on the floor near a photo box. My hand holding a picture you sent me of red rocks in Arizona. The stones are sturdy and covered in brown stripes. Warren, builder of castles. I wish you built a castle for me, fitting your name, made from the Proto-Germanic “to protect and defend”.
Gabriella Mayer is a writer from Boca Raton, FL, and currently an MFA candidate at NYU, where she is the Copy Editor for the Washington Square Review. Her work has been published or forthcoming in Touchstone Literary Magazine and the 3rd volume of Aurora: the Allegory Ridge Poetry Anthology, among other publications. She was also a finalist for Touchstone's 2020 Debut Prize in Poetry, judged by Luisa Muradyan.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I started writing poetry in middle school when I was around 12 or 13. A lot of it was the typical teenage angst that later developed into my melancholic style -- still angst, but more contemplative of the world and everything inside it than "Oh god, I have all these feelings I can't describe." Writing came out of the difficulty I've had in verbal communication with other people my entire life. With speech, saying the wrong word can create so much chaos and misunderstanding. With the written word, you get down on paper exactly what you need and want to say.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Not any specific one. For the first few years, I was making up my own rules as I went, but in high school, I did everything I could to try and imitate Emily Dickinson in my poetry. I did a charcoal drawing of her in my art class that got hung up in one of the English classrooms and bought multiple books of just her poems. To retcon what I just said 3 sentences ago, I really enjoyed Poem #1292 which goes:
"In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much - how little - is within our power".
I've moved away from imitating her, but she holds a big place in my heart.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
This may make me sound like a bad poet, but I try not to limit myself to only reading poets. I think choosing a book just for its genre can be great if you're the type of person into that, but a lot of the time, I find myself feeling very limited creatively. It totally depends on the type of writing you want to achieve, so don't think you only need to read poetry to become a great one! I also recommend reading books that act hybrid and challenge perceptions of what prose and poetry can do for the text. However, the poets/writers I do adore are Paul Celan, Airea D. Matthews, Suzzane Buffam, Wislawa Szymborska, Louise Gluck, Rumi, Morgan Parker, and Mahmoud Darwish.
Some poetry books and poems I love include Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, "Descent of the Composer" by Airea D. Matthews, "The Mothman Gets High" (from Mothman Apologia) by Robert Wood Lynn, "The Door" by Debra Nystrom, Meet Me There by Samuel Ace, and A Humument by Tom Phillips.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in
I carry one of two notebooks with me at all times -- most of the time it's my tiny black Moleskin. I've found I need to be surrounded by some noise, so I'll either listen to music or head to a park where I can people-watch. From there, I jot down any sentences or words that come to my head. Many poets write with a specific subject in mind, but I write stream-of-consciousness, meaning I'll write the first thing that comes to me. If I'm feeling antsy, I'll move around the space and see if that changes anything.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I definitely decide on what the poem will look like as I go. Since I write in my notebooks most of the time, I used to try and come up with a form and line breaks within the first draft. Nowadays, as I've had more time with my thoughts during a pandemic, I've gone to writing the poem in full blocks and then rearranging them later. As I said, I write my poems in more of a stream-of-consciousness fashion, which allows me to rethink what the poem can look like after I've gotten most of the words out of my brain and onto the page.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
The fact that you're writing poems at all means you have a voice already there, and it's incredible! Treat your poetic voice like a plant: give it nourishment (food, water, what you've been reading recently), give it time to play with all the toys in your treasure box (in this case, your interests and experiences of what it's like for you to experience the world you live in), let it rest when it's tired, then repeat. You will find your voice when you do the above and when it's time to, so don't be discouraged if you can't find it right away.
What is your editing process like?
I'm not great at revision, honestly. I do most of my editing in my head the first time I write down a poem, but I take a glance at it a few days after that and see what could be changed. I've found having a writing group to give me direct feedback especially helpful just to have other perspectives rattling around (plus, they may give you reading recommendations that can help your writing get better). During my time at NYU, I took a great craft class by Nicole Sealey all about the process of revision and how other writers have done it. Now, I use the prompts from those classes if I run out of ideas.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
If I finish reading the last word and the sound of the poem is ringing in my ears or giving me calmness among the noise, that's my time to stop.