Joseph P. Wood


Autobiography stops turning its pages—or the same page                   
until...——pointless to ask—you're not my fucking son—
render that tone back—and my tone—I choose orphanage
can't stop the turning—autobiography—the same page
flying on me like a demon—a hollowed-out phalange
Sister Mary Agnes—Go home, you don't know desperation
until there's no turning or stopping
—autobiography pages
a pointless asking—fuck—you are the sun.



When I was ten—no, a teen—it's hard to say—a friend
nail-gunned a stray cat—he's in jail now—rape—(I know
the woman actually)—knife in my hand, the cat hissed
hard—I knew at ten—NO—when I said it, my friend—
his mouth had this upturn—took the blade and thrusted
up the ass—organs connected pulsing, red thread—pee flowed—
I was ten, a teen—when no was hard to say—this friend—
in jail he's now—raped and cut with stray nails—I know...



Attending to harm—the physician asks—did you try—
this past year—shift and slither—not here to judge but—
the grass conceals the dead—still green—horse flies
attend to the ham—I ask the physician—did you try
that shank—
two icebergs break—melting fjords slide
down my throat—me, me, me—the problem's heart
harms the physician's asking—did you attend my trying
past year—you're not my judge—
shift and slither—but—



Years—not the past—shift and slither—but do not judge
asking them—as if tired physicians—why harm me,
I attend to your demands—
as if malady resides in a clock—a sludge                    
of years, we name the past—our buts! shift, slither, judge
what we wreck—plants, rivers, marshes—we can't budge
the soul—yes, the soul—to take a vacation: the white sand,
traces of shift and slither—not past nor years nor judge
nor physician—there's harm in tired asking—just attend.



I know rape, I know jail. Stray nails cuts the now,
when hardened teens—ten a pack—say
no friend's
here to save you—I had hit her on the head slow
her nails cut—I know rape and jail, a straying now
to hell with her—I am nothing inside nothing, a cow
tipped into the lake—it is dark and slimy, an end
I know straying—it's jail and nail and cuts—now
the pack grows hard—I was a teen; I had friends.



Pointless not fucking you—the sun asks its course
until there's no biography—your pages stop turning
when that massive star explodes—we are gone, sources
of pointless asking—not the sun—our fucking—coarse,
cruel—frightened badgers tearing the flesh—hoarse
with rage—misnamed passion—our bodies spurned
on by the pointless sun—fucking you ask our course—
when we share a page—until I know—stop turning.





After suffering through a three year spell of depression, I was given a drug, Vyvanse, used primarily to treat ADD but can backdoor depression. In one day, I went from despondant to human. I am still overwhelmed by the shift. During the previous depression, I wrote long, highly associative poems that were the voice of a lunatic. But after this phyisical shift occured, I knew it was time for a change.

I thought about form a lot recently, particularly closed forms--their cultural and historical resonances. I stumbled across Thomas Hardy's famous triolet by the magic of web-surfing:

How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
—Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Nor memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?

After that, there wasn't a ton of triolet writing being done in America, save by our wonderful Neo-formalist writers such as AE Stallings, Joshua Mehigan, and Rachel Hadas—and they really are sticklers to the form. But then I discovered Anne Waldman's and Lisa Jarnot's triolets, and immediately something clicked. There were numerous dialetical possibilites within the form that matched my own questions and feelings about being mentally "stable". The triolet for me solves and problematizes; it gropes for understanding but also indicates estrangement from the language; it posits but then undercuts because there's no time to establish authority. Moreover, it's an inherently lyrical form that I wanted to make discurssive--thus the sequencing and the refrain reversal mirrors midway through the book (and this excerpt). The sequence moves forward but simultaneously can't escape itself. At the end of the day, the form does not allow transcendence nor wish fulfillment—one is bound to the earth, for better, for worse.