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Arianna Zwartjes



(upon its negation)

Only the daringest take my name for its fullest meaning thin and threadbare I am not.  In my name a kind of consequence (everything is possible if God does not exist) they say and (as a result man is forlorn).   We are twinned not the same as anguish I (finding nothing to cling to you think) nor are we one person. In contrast I find (of anemonied fluting) intersections and departures of every imaginable self (as the refraction of light say or a spidering of cracks in plated glass), here to thrive.  So my self opens and opens up (from a single point I am, soft-petalled) and where you thought to find void, uncurved.
Listen to Arianna Zwartjes read "Forlorn":




(surface opens out)

spinning      this body    plane where all lines meet   (or: whose circumference is       everywhere    center nowhere) here     scattering of seedpods to root     some god      one face    inscrutable I was always accused      a sort of  fame nineteen sixty-nine you first looked back at me    a loosening green and blue and knit shawl     cloudy white     and you began to   love my shape   the lover is obsessed with edges Carson says     no edges I am a continuous self    (spheres make   contraries impossible    lack, impossible)      spin me you’ll find I never end        every day I destroy it      still every day I come back     new
Listen to Arianna Zwartjes read "Sphere":



(Detailing Trauma)

I. The ways in which bodies break are not pretty

This may seem like a statement of the obvious. You think you know and then you find you knew nothing.


II.  The ways in which bodies break are not pretty nor are they obvious

There are for instance many ways in which smokers die. Pulmonary embolism, increased risk for cardiac disease, atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, walls and tunnels harden to brittle cardboard.  It is impossible not to think of you when these conditions are covered. You not being here is not an option.  You being gone. There are many ways in which poetry attempts to protect us from the possible.


Poetry does not protect us from the possible. Nor do we want it to

to the contrary there are those of us who come to language seeking to be broken open. This is another way of remaining alive.


III.  The ways in which bodies break will change you

It is when we are happiest we fear the most. 

Content, we wish desperately for nothing to change, while miserable, we long for everything to change. Either way we are tires spinning in red mud--  refusing to open our hands.  To accept that nothing is fixed. 

The bedrock you stand on is not rock.  The person you think you know is many people in one, a stranger, an enemy, an unfamiliar lover, someone unpredictable, someone unfixed.  The body you think you own & control is capable of unimaginable treachery. The body you think comprises you is slowly disintegrating.  The world you thought had rules

in fact has none.  The perimeter of safety you built around your world is not brick but paper.  One morning the sun does not come up.  One day the bed is empty.  One day your mind says lift

and your leg does nothing

Listen to Arianna Zwartjes read "(Detailing...)":



Clotting Cascade

To “recover:”
       1.  vt to get back something previously lost
       2.  vi to return to a previous state of health, prosperity, or equanimity
       3.  vt to extract useful substances from waste or refuse
       4.  vi to return to a suitable or correct state or position
       5.  vt to make up for that which is lost
       6.  vt to obtain something by the ruling of a court
       7.  vr to bring the self back to a natural condition


 * * * * *

I think the narrative is starting to come back into things.  Starting to clot and thicken. We take these stories to make sense of things. We take them to give us meaning.          


Ours is a generation in conflict with ourselves. We want to believe in the narrative and at the same time we can’t.  Or, we spent so much time not-believing. And not without reason. As we get older I think we’re starting to want----and to be torn. We understand fracture too well. We understand the shiftiness of the narrative, how slippery it is, how fickle. We’ve seen the places where it loses its hold, its meaning.  The places where it’s hollow. The places where it avoids saying what needs to be said. Like making love to reweave the frayed lace intricacies of a lie. We were skeptics from the beginning. Still, there’s this certain ache coming into place for us. An ache for something to supplant the narrative we don’t believe in?  Something coherent instead of cynicism, instead of a certain social and relational atheism---atheism not in the religious sense but more in a postmodern, societal sense.


We’ve seen the speed with which images bombard each other, overlap, replace. The speed with which social amnesia takes hold. We understand that a speaker can be no one, anyone, everyone all at once. We know that I  is a slippery thing. Nonetheless, I think we’re slowly finding we want it still to mean---as we drag this anchor across the bottom we want it to catch somewhere.


 * * * * *

The possibility that philosophical inquiry might confirm our worst fears (do we turn away).  This heritage of relinquished blooms. 

You can only relate what you saw a bold and almost incredible answer.


If I say things thaw the tap of salt water am I trying to be optimistic. Though today a thaw is a frightening thing.  There is the question of how to (hold to) optimism within the present narrative.

Stitched and torn, cut and spliced the surgeon’s hand is never empty. In the video you can see the huge floes of ice, like buildings come crashing down.

 * * * * *

In the one hand I balance a brown egg: each generation has thought its world was going to end. Paul of Tarsus called his days ‘these late times.’ He lived in the first century. In the other, a speckled blue: scientifically it seems this time around we have reason to believe it actually might.

Where do we put that in the narrative? If we are thinking say of children. If we’ve regathered that much faith. It all splits back open again. Sutures today are made of specialized thread that will eventually dissolve into nothing. Coda in hand and heart fettered we attempt to keep walking forward. 

 * * * * *

Listen to Arianna Zwartjes read "Clotting...":



Arianne Zwartjes is an EMT, wilderness educator, and poet living in Tucson, Arizona, and teaching in the English department at the University of Arizona. She is the author of (Stitched) A Surface Opens (2008) and The Surfacing of Excess (2010), and is currently completing a collection of medically-themed lyric essays, from which two of these pieces are drawn.
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