Table of Contents



Laura Mullen



A song or a saying
But a pause in the effort
To hold a tune or
Communicate look
Here is a dead moth
Lying in the skeletal
Structure of a dried leaf
Trace the lace of the stuff
The impulse of life
Once traveled through
The trajectory
A sort of ocarina
Open to soundless




Social embarrassments mine by default I noticed
Fault lines followed memorized they lead deep into what's as usual
Weakness this contagious

Who rested a little too long in the idea
Of "the usual" now over will never escape too dizzy unable to
Look at me adding word to word

Unwanted the next amid chaos the words after that then these
Unwane which doesn't exist

Movie title Word of Advice a plan then a building that remains
An idea I was listening as I wrote this down for
How am I being what I wanted to be what I want you to be to let me be

Hours of that question days months years and because now is not now
On the word "futile" the writing stops

Then a note about the incorrect use of
Sits there abandoned   and one minute

It seems like it might still come true
Then the next




Tangled by strings across the air to you
Tugged out of my thought laundry on
The line the diagram makes from your
Eye to my hand from your ear to my lips
Each letter jerk jerk jerk a familiar plot
All love and violence thwack and laughter

An imitation of the laughter around us




Hearing noises or imagining noises that might come from birds, are birdlike, wordlike in their cadence though—in everything else—nonsense. And then the name for this is "puppets." Puppets in the air their small disconnected stories or anecdotes breaking up further, cut strings a whisper whispering, the small uncontrolled limbs flailing. They bow or collapse down into a posture of "bracing for impact" and are stuck between now and then, faint protests made or only mouthed, always somewhat outraged until each noise they make is as previously stated meaningless. Faintly among the list of distresses the lines from whatever role they were playing before they got dropped down into this liminal and unacknowledged space of merely waiting. "Tis I!" "At last," "See—what did I tell you?" Knees folded up against their shut eyes, arms tangled. Reality doesn't have a stopping place but seeps into this dump of memories to leech out a fluid thick with incoherent muttering out of which might emerge, "I have no idea how I managed to so royally fuck up my own life." Puppets—this is what makes them so hilarious—say that. And mean it. Peep peep peep. Puppets are birds who won't fly again ever, "Annoying dead guy," no lift no holy spirit no hopeful sense about—when being tortured—returning to Our Father no feeling that this was supposed to happen meant to happen to me it's that that makes them puppets that lack of sense and the star shapes their white shit makes on the pavement and the bits of broken eggshell looking like tiny pieces of the sky flaked off and the noises they make: feathered Christians caught in the mouth of the cat. This is my mouth, flapping. Still trying to flap. This is something. A mouth. Amounts.






"What If Poetry Wasn't": an effort to find a way forward—and a glance back: on a table in New Orleans, in the life I'd left, the moth, leaf. The "ocarina" came (back) via Claire Chase and Eduard Kohn—I recommend [this video]

"Faultless Book of…": origin lost: this work was "abandoned" and resurrected. Among the many folders of Drafts, a file titled Faultless…!?! Open it (over and over).

"These Words: ekphrastic: the image for the act of communication in Saussure's Course in General Linguistics is my next tattoo.

"Who might be": Recommended reading: Kenneth Gross, Puppets: An Essay on Uncanny Life, and Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings.

These poems were written and / or revised at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito California, July-August 2021. I had stopped by City Lights on the way to Marin; I brought Norma Cole's Fate News and Chet'la Sebree's Field Guide with me to the residency.