What one does
one does in the last scrape
on a coat of hide
or not at all
or in a kind of dance
in which one’s feet
slip into darkness
& one’s hair
scratches at the surface
of a veil of oil
& one’s body distorts
itself into a spring
of etherized coil.
I am not a crow
soaring at the corner
of some starless
drain. Though you
you are not
legible. We are not
unraveling. One is
How a word can be split,
turned aro und, un
wrapped. O flail
for the threshing of grain—
O be autiful white car
in the black night.
Only not quite. O
nly not black ei
ther: it loo sens & greys
in st rips:
tea crops turned a sh
on two p ink
ton gues. O be
autiful, ro und (e yes)
On the one hand
a car releases its white gho
st as the ot her
Where they me et a lin
ear eye o
pens sof tly:
a chord is stru ck.
Even the leaves ce ase
sha king in the wi nd.
The mermaid’s body does not exist in the swarm.
She melts into the mush, into the insect mushi,
& rides her black seahorse behind the muddy storm.
The mermaid’s hair is perfect: 1950’s shoehorn
which dissolves—her breast a Blemmyes’s face.
The horse she rides is broken: a harnessed insect.
I fuse bodies with the mermaid: her seahorse legs,
her slightly open mouth, the tripod of her limbs
outstretched. Behind us the great river absorbs
a pellet of dish soap in a bowl of black milk:
the soap dissolves & pushes proteins in a frenzy:
dissolves eventually into a soft animal hide: it is our bodies
fused & it dissolves. I’d like to drink the milk
but cannot find a mouth. I’d like to eat the pellet
like a fish, but am lost suckling the Blemmyes’s sharp
uneven face: insect mush, muddy storm, harness
unstrapped & buckling like a bamboo joint that creaks
along its own disjointed spine. I see the insect now
& again appearing to smile, a kind of chi with eyes.
What is this fusion, Naoko? What body are we conjuring
between us: a kind of half-formed, doubled fish?
What land does it inhabit? It grows. It speaks one word
at a time, & then it slips away beneath our grasp,
beyond the surface to the depths. It wears us like a mask.
This is my favorite kind of death.
The bull grabs itself by the horns & vomits blood.
It is black and white & read all over.
I was driven thence by foul winds;
from the mud a lotus flower grew
& was eaten & resulted in nectarine sleep.
They started at once, & went about
among the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt,
but gave them to eat of the lotus.
Every nipple is an eye of God.
Every eye is looking for something invisible.
To nurse the napping amnesiac.
To lay down a squabble, if only for the night.
The table is set.
At the center a molecule
whose primary element
is desire locks
& unlocks like a little gate.
Around the table
four guests become
a fifth by nature
of their shared halves:
a woman places
her guts on the table: a man
eats them with his hands
which belong also
to a child who flickers
like a light bulb
with an uncertain wire.
This is the room
outside of time:
where words eat each other
& fuck until
they are changed.
the guest yawns
even at her own reflection:
by what is missing: asks
not even a slice
of unbuttered bread.
the Drive: Trieb:
in himself he
subtle wedge: Freud’s invisible
son through dinner
speaks only of sex
& death: is so stoned
by night’s end
he drives himself
home sobbing like a man:
around an ancient tree.
desire under the full moon:
& asks to see everyone’s
sex: or is covered
in a dark cloth while underneath
her body perspires:
she is silent & insistent:
she moans & flutters
her legs beneath the table:
presses them against
then dissipates as mist:
& yet remains.
the five desires:
money: sex: fame: sleep:
appetite: all are here:
all share a single body:
it locks & unlocks
like a little gate: it has no
gender: no age: no language.
None of us is far
from death. Already the sun
is coming up. Already
the clock has stopped.
Paper is only flattened pulp.
Time a sliver of a single life.
The letter seeds the word,
which seeds the slice, which
loosens a leaf from its branch.
The branch is on the verge
of breaking; the flint is on the verge
of being struck; the root, etc….
A great machine unearths the trunk
& hacks its body up
& mixes its fibers with chemicals
until the mass is wet & supple
as a sludge. Then a different machine
lays thin that pulp to dry
& sets it flat into another bath
where one will introduce blue ink
to bring the paper into a kind of body.
& one will introduce black ink
to give the body a kind of breath.
& then a woman, Naoko, will stamp
her red name, & will dip her brush,
which will be made of the hair
of some animal inserted into a slender
cylinder of wood, & she will dip
her brush into the ink to paint
the word seed in iridescent black.
The word will float between the eye
& the paper. The seed will take.
Together, we have passed through.
You on your horse & me on my horse.
Our thinking is a sedimentary smoke
that lays down its sheets & compresses
into travertine. You say you have been
purified by this process & so I believe you.
I love how the edges bleed, how the lines
taper into a kind of overlooking,
how the fibers of plant matter assert
themselves so the paper appears
a speckled egg: steamrolled but still full
of the potential for life or nourishment.
If I close my eyes to the point
of blurring, your word becomes a face
that stares back. An eye. A furrowed
brow & one thick strand of hair that falls
like Jessica Rabbit’s to obscure the other
half. Between us, an entire planet
wheezes. What we cannot exorcise
we must draw attention to. We must
point our fingers into the unbreathable
fog, thick with molecules so complex
they had to be invented by mistake.
Plastic beads are everywhere: inside
fish, inside birds, inside the bodies
of our mothers & we cannot distinguish
them from nothingness. I have grown
to staring. The single blank eye has grown
to staring back. Thank you for this eye.
Fuh-mi is the pseudonym of Japanese artist and fashion coordinator, Naoko Mikami. She majored in Japanese literature at Nihon University in Tokyo and is mostly interested in Japanese traditional culture including kimono, ikebana, and especially calligraphy. She is seeking ways to present calligraphy in its utmost contemporary expression.
Martin Rock is the author of Residuum, winner of the 2015 Editor’s Choice Award for Cleveland State Poetry Center’s first book prize, and of the chapbook Dear Mark (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). His poems and translations from Japanese have appeared in Asymptote, Black Warrior Review, Conduit, Forklift; Ohio, Diagram, and elsewhere, and his work has been featured in places such as Verse Daily, Best New Poets 2012, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, and Brooklyn Poets. He lives in Oakland and is a PhD Candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at University of Houston.