SHEN HUA; TAKING THE LADY'S HAND...; THIS YOU AN ECHO NOVEMBER ABANDONS
By: Valyntina Grenier
Admiring this fine paint job
charcoal ceiling pale-yellow walls
I find the tiny spot
at the top edge of one wall
somebody screwed up
yellow over black
forewarning or danger
Drops of a stratocumulous
bawling in public
Some gray day, another
One lackluster crepuscule
longing for a breach
grasping for a shroud
burn then slice it clean
w/ a scalpel from my cheek
drop it in a jar
of salted lukewarm water
A bumble dissociated from the hive
The paints in this restraint
meet with miniscule perception
from edge to edge
One speck of carbon
Roll on the yellow
Then preciously paint to it the black
TAKING THE LADY'S HAND AND PASSING HER BACK HER BAG
“Do you know how I know that I love you
[the breath egressing from her left nostril
echoes off her eardrum and sounds like wind]
earlier today I thought how I would be if you died”
That’s love, the death fantasy, our enumeration of loss The rescue fantasy signifies fornication or the desire to save to be deep-ended upon
be if you died”
Come rushing the assailant faster than a sound can pass from the mouth of your darling victim No, you catch the victim before she’s hit the ground You hold her to your chest as you rest her with the strength of your left arm slowly to the ground You leap for the assailant hug him around the ankles send him smashing to the cement kneel into his back your arm around his neck
if you died now today
Why does the rescue fantasy come when you want to get sexual and the death fantasy come with love The rescue fantasy is thrilling and not often followed by the depth fanta [sigh]
Remember what it is like
“do you know how I know that I love you
because earlier today I thought how I would
be if you died
if you died now today”
Raising her hand here
THIS YOU AN ECHO NOVEMBER ABANDONS
A shallow brace that cannot bear to cry/ speak/ breathe what is true set under the epoch pounded down crumbling on its subject
You don’t have it all
from keeping your mouth shut
You from lips me?
Nothing is the largest snap
No one lawless bound me too
Won’t I sit
unbending/ unbeing/ unsexing/
No way; never!
My sour heart?
held drunk within your freedom
aren’t the same
Nothing is this stayed within me
In none indignant sea
Valyntina's work has appeared in High Shelf Press, Sunspot Lit, Lana Turner and Bat City Review. Her poems, paintings, installations, Neon and encaustic art sway between representation and abstraction to reveal violence and joy. Fever Dream / Take Heart, Cathexis Northwest Press, 2020, her double debut poetry chapbook, features paintings from her LGBTQIA+ series Cloudshow | Utopia. Find her at valyntinagrenier.com or Insta @valyntinagrenier.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press: How long have you been writing poetry?
Well, since high school, but I remember writing my first poem or a little song when I was probably in second grade, maybe first. It was about a monkey on paper that was shaped like a monkey’s head.
CNP: Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry? VG:
“I Have a Little Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson made me fall in love with reciting poetry. My grandmother, Gail Easterling, wrote a poem for me when I was four, “Who Can This Be?” it made me love the idea of writing poetry. Yeats’ “Under Ben Bulben” made me fall in love with reading poetry. And the first poem that I fell in love with is Pablo Neruda’s “Poetry.”
CNP: Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems? VG:
There are many, but in this moment I will say Jane Mead and Harmony Holiday. Favorite poems? “Song of the Bodyguard” by Robert Duncan and [I’ve none to tell me too but thee] by Emily Dickinson. One of my contributions this month, “This You an Echo November Abandons,“ is an opposite emulation of Dickinson‘s poem—I chose an antonym or several for each word in Dickinson’s poem as my first draft. And two favorite books? Jorie Graham’s Fast and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.
CNP: Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone? VG:
I have a few ways of generating the first draft of a poem, usually in public, at one of my favorite spots on 4th Ave, or downtown, Tucson. My zone? Negative capability, (described in a letter by Keats as, “not irritably grasping after fact or reason”) being in a state of radical freedom—from machines, away from my designated workspace, separated from my comfort zone.
In terms of ritual, on the rare occasion and to indulge in the facility of devices, I make an aural first draft. But for the most part my poems are written or selected with pencil (a papermate sharpwriter) on a page. I may make an opposite emulation or write a first draft as I think of it. If I really need to escape meaning and context, I’ll splash several words around a page or pages. Or I may be of a mind to write phrases between the words.
CNP: 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? VG:
My poems shape their sense from sound so unless I’m beginning with some fixed form like blank verse, say, or a villanelle, which is rare, the form develops along the way. Usually I arrive at the word processing stage with a block of text that will call for lineation and stanza breaks. I may have a super long line and a one word line in the same poem. I guess the sound and the meaning of each line and what it actually looks like on the page dictate the final form.
CNP: Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice? VG:
Keep listening, whether or not you think you hear it. There may be more than one, right? And if we’re looking for some signifier or unique ontology, I think the indication is to keep working. I’m slow. I make art in multiple media and for some time even my poems seemed to have been made by multiple people. I think, finally, regardless of media, my work carries the sense that it’s been made by a person.
CNP: What is your editing process like? VG: Hopefully it surprises me. For the past several years I come out of the generative phase with a block of dictated text. Something that’s fun about voice recognition is unexpected word choice, at times, you know, it mishears. I make the prose like a puzzle, replacing and arranging music, imagery, meaning. I consider individual long lines. Breaks come from there. Then I may transpose or cut lines or stanzas.
CNP: When do you know that a poem is finished?
When it’s able to balance on the page and in the air. Meaning, it's shape on the page, and the way it conveys knowledge, emotion, images, sound. And when what I read aloud has the same beats and breaks as it does in my mind. When it has the right title. Ultimately by the way it valedicts and greets the poems around it.
As a postscript, I edited two of the poems in this month’s issue in the recording process.