Pressing Flowers; The Importance of the Primary, Based on Qualia and Axioms; I Woke to Irises Blooming
All things become richer in rainfall. The forest’s arms, my lover’s eyes,
my grandmother’s grief. Is pressing flowers
practice in preservation or crucifixion? For a flower
is often pentamerous like a body––such as the forget-me-not, such as my grandmother,
who is also without moisture and light, flattened into the parchment of my life.
On her behalf, when she is gone, I will eat the apricot over other choice fruit,
and look to the cardinal when I enter the garden.
The Importance of the Primary, Based on Qualia and Axioms
The origin of almost everything
alive is deeply red.
Every one of our stories began with a great blooming
of genitalia and the blush of a mother’s exhaustion.
Every day that rose in
the past began with a ruby
in the sky. Red-breasted birds sing
of lovers that shape shared lives
from the warm and wet ocherous clay of hellos. Her hands
once tinkered my tiny heart whole [with her miscellaneous things]
and continuously thumping, for she knew this red work would never be
over. The rainbow’s highest part.
Such as the sun, which is a brightness sour to the eyes
as a lemon is to the mouth. In summer,
the earliest and last notes of birdsong sail
the wind like ships of yellow sound
waves, breaking at the shores of children’s skulls
as they play in the yard. The mother pats her hands
on an apron yellowed by time. Yellow potato peels
bask in the sunbeams of wide-open windows.
When the mother says: supper! and the children go
running in––to the simple pleasure of being
in the place where one
That which is breathed or blown from me,
sold to the gentleman with the belligerent
rainclouds. On days of departures,
I feel as if I have pricked my fingers with
blue thistles. I leave behind
people, places, memories, and weep. Salt
broth of the sea, constantly churning. The bluest songs
of warplanes overhead and the whistles of loose bombs, the burst
heard for hundreds of miles. Silence,
like when observing a lake drained, revealing the graveyard of what once was
a highbush blueberry orchard. At last,
oval-shaped tears I shed when she welcomed me, Home.
I Woke to Irises Blooming
i. Last night, pressing purple hyacinth
into my hands, I cried for all lost
correspondences. Closed my eyes on the hot, intermittent
cinders of any meaning, and in my dreams, chased
the very tiny, quick feet
of my afterwit in
overlapping circles and other worse intricacies until
the impressions had vanished and I was no longer
aware of myself or sure of my reasoning.
ii. In the early morning, I woke to irises
blooming from my irises, divulgences floating out
from their sophisticated centers:
The roof does not implore
the rain to wash off what has grown over.
You must become to become to become
unbound. I went shoeless into the morning,
wet black soil accumulating
at my ankles,
my calves, one hundred loosened strands
of grass, slow garden snails, clinging.
I remember I was something once, before
all of this consumption. At the river,
I saw straw-fish and cigarette-frogs.
Something else, something big and invisible folded
my paper body. A crane pierced the apricot sky.
iii. At the afternoon of all things, I blew life
from a white dandelion to spark more life.
Told the man I love to stay
cautious and close,
should my shadow become me.
When I raised my thought-children up from the ground
of myself, I [with sap and honey] willfully
soothed my own chords of their thunder, and imparted this:
all of us have a cardinal heart––the most vivid immortal
object [insect? dream? machine?
what is a heart anyway?] amidst all this snow.
Do not allow this world to so cruelly turn
your cardinal into a cathedral.
Mackenzie Schubert is a recent graduate of William Paterson University in New Jersey, where she was an honor student of writing, psychology, and foreign language. She is presently job hunting, applying for graduate programs, and trying to find her way home.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I have always been writing––instinctively, vitally––but I would say that I truly resigned myself to poetry (not looking back) very early in my undergraduate years.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
I knew I would end up a poet after I read “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe in grade seven, and then, like dominos––“After great pain, a formal feeling comes” (372) by Emily Dickinson, and “Saturn” by Sharon Olds. I knew my adult life would be spent making poems in the shadows of these.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Emily Dickinson is my favorite modern poet. Of contemporary poets, I would especially note: Lucie Brock Broido (master of my little writer heart), Sharon Olds, Karen Volkman, and Eric Pankey. But there are many, many other names worth mentioning.
Favorite poems? Anything by Lucie––“Infinite Riches in the Smallest Rooms”, “The Halo That Would Not Light”, “A Lion in Winter”, “Birdie Africa”, anything. They stay with me. Lately, I have been extremely taken with “Galway Aria” and “Where Is My Lady?” by Sharon Olds. “Singer”, “Sylt I”, and “Sylt II” by Valzhyna Mort.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
Rare days, I sit myself down, I start a poem, and I do not stop. I go into something like a state of writerly fugue. I feel as if I actually enter the poem. It is like a fever dream. And next thing I know, it is dark out. Other days, writing is a chore, but one that must be done. I read and research for inspiration, I walk the arboretum near my house. I zero in on a word, obsess over it, and let that word encourage a poem.
Regarding ritual, I would say: windows. I have to be near a window when I write, always. Maybe because writing is such a reclusive act, one that requires so much introspection, that I end up spending most of my time within myself, and I have to remind myself, at least in some small way, that the world is still out there, moving, and I still have to be in it.
Or maybe just because I love the birds.
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?
The poem decides. I have authority over enjambment/thoughtful line breaking. I have authority over making a single word do, on page, what the meaning of the word is (e.g., forcing the word “fall’ to actually fall to the subsequent line). But when it comes to the skeleton of the poem––the whole ensemble of words rather than lines as parts––the poem instructs its own movement.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
I think I just recently identified the beginnings of my true voice. These poems published by CNP, while very dear to me, are earlier poems of mine, and do not necessarily reflect the voice that I have recently sharpened to something resembling a point. Just now, after having graduated with a B.A. and having applied to graduate programs for two rounds straight, do I think I have somewhat acquired “my voice”. And who knows? I think a shift in this voice will likely occur. I was just accepted at my dream MFA program. I am hoping these next two years spent in the program will truly make clear my voice.
Advice? Just keep reading. Just keep writing. Experiment a lot, especially at first. Try on different voices of poets whose work you like, understand their registers. Pick certain tones or qualities of that voice that you would like to keep for yourself, and then move on. Accumulate techniques and styles, essentially. And I think after all of that practice, after all of that time spent messing around with your craft and emulating the poetic algorithms of those whose work you worship, you will find a unique algorithm that is right for you. But never lose sight of that little literary torch that was with you from the beginning, which will, I think, always tell you what writing you ought to be doing.
What is your editing process like?
Sometimes a poem might go through four or five drafts until I feel it is finished. In this version, I think of editing like whetting. Each line is a knife. Other times, a poem might only go through one draft. In this version, editing is like a very familiar arrival. Like enlightenment.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Endings, now, are intuitive for me. It was not always this way. I really had to work at concluding a piece. Now, the poem will sort of let off a chime when it is done. I listen for that.