With Error; Here As I Turn; Water in my Mouth
By: Jessica Rigney
You’ll not wish to read these lines
For the starlings which have flocked to them
And set up chittering atop the letters
With their iridescent breasts full of themselves.
I don’t blame your reticence
For a world of wings have been lost
Upon the eyes of us looking
And not seeing. Forgive this memory.
What was once taken without error
Is now taken with error intended—
So they say. And so there is seed put out
Atop the posts of the fence line
Just under the cottonwoods where
At sundown their branches appear
White in the light against a pale sky
As though this very same text
Were bleached of its pigment
And made a crown for the coming night.
Here as I Turn
And I’m walking
With this long leg—
Despite. But you see
I’ve stuck my hair full
Of feathers. The doves
Have left and it makes
No sense this warm
Wind. My cottonwood drops
Its branch—here as I turn
It’s dropping. I’ve already
Said too much. And you—
You are breathing inside
This poem. And I am
Alone. And I am not
Water in My Mouth
I hold the water in my mouth
As I have held your tongue between
My teeth—consolidating hunger left and right
In solicitude for this shock of life
As we are living it. And I hold on
To woven years—overlap underlap thin
Breaths betwixt rasps thickening and count
The steps upwards towards your knowledge.
Where you are going I cannot follow
And will remain at the gatepost introducing
Myself to the waft of air indifferent in your wake.
You say kiss me again and I do and can’t
Make out what it is I am to tell you
About who I am in this flux from what felt forever
And suddenly is not. I hold your hands
In mine own. Open palmed you have lifted them
To me for the giving. You place my face
In your grip and for all the world I give away
That which has clung to me in exchange
For this fierce and calmly draught fire.
Jessica Rigney is a poet, artist, and filmmaker. She lives and wanders in Colorado and northern New Mexico, where she films and collects feathers and stones. www.jessicarigney.com
Interview With the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
For as long as I can remember, I have been a poet.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
My mother let me check out all the books I wanted from the library. By age ten, I was reading Emily Dickinson’s poems.
I typed out the poems I loved on my mother’s typewriter, so I would have them even after I returned the books. I remember being physically affected by this one.
“After great pain, a formal feeling comes —
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs —
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round —
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought —
A Quartz contentment, like a stone —
This is the Hour of Lead —
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow —
First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go —“
—Emily Dickinson (FR372, J341)
Its visceral effect was perhaps because I was growing up in Illinois where winters are long and cold. I also understood great pain, even at my young age. It is a poem which continues to astonish me for its imagery, words, arousal of a physical response, beauty of rhythm, and its inherent ‘rightness’.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
I return again and again to these poets.
Averill Curdy, particularly the poem, Ovid In America, from her book entitled Song & Error.
Emily Dickinson’s Poems, As She Preserved Them, edited by Cristanne Miller.
Anne Carson’s works, any of them. My copy of Plainwater is dog-eared on nearly every page.
The prose book by Friederike Mayröcker entitled brütt, or The Sighing Gardens.
Ben Lerner’s books, Mean Free Path and The Lichtenberg Figures.
César Vallejo’s poems, all of them.
I also return to The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks, over and over.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in
Poetry is for me a physical experience—a form of synesthesia, in that I feel the words in my entire body, in my mouth, and ‘see’ them as waves of color and light as I write.
For this reason, my process is about getting out of the way of the poetry. This is best accomplished if I spend time cleaning, cycling, hiking, moving my body. Then I am able to sit still, to allow the words to come through.
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 type quickly, getting words, images, sensations to the page. The form comes after. The poem decides its form, by the gravity of its words and how much space required around each image or sensation.
I have also written with a specific form in mind. This is a different process, also satisfying, fitting sensations and words to a form, as though tailoring a dress to fit the unique form of a single body.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Read. Read everything—poetry, novels, nonfiction, history, Shakespeare!, the biographies of other writers, all of it. Hearing the words and knowing the lives of all those who have come before us, makes our own path clearer.
What is your editing process like?
I put away a new poem for a period of time. Then I return to it and remove the extraneous, distilling the poem, to get at its potency. Then I rinse and repeat.
Often I record the poem. Reading it aloud allows me to embody the poem, allows me to ‘hear’ the poem’s heart.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
When I’ve recorded a poem several times and it no longer changes as I read it aloud, when I wake up at night and can hear the lines of the poem without asking for them, I know it is done.