017.1: Natalie Lyalin:: Electrocardiogram & Small and Private Tragedies 017

I hadn’t thought about the word electrocardiogram until encountering Natalie Lyalin’s poems for this issue. I knew the word but perhaps didn’t think of its makeup: what the heart (cardio) writes (graph) by its electricity (electro). Implied in the metaphor are two levels of interpretation, the machine itself and the technician who reads the chart. Both are readers and that reading becomes rewriting. And indeed, here are two poems-- tight compact pieces that peak and trough electrically-- like those little square green screens. Here a grieving heart is run through two lenses: poem as machine and you as technician. Read these grief machines. Nik De Dominic


I protect my heart when I perform, but the night is another thing.
It does not appear to care much, and I am weak.
Nightmare: my father is a bride. I lift the veil over his eager face.
His wife’s eyes are very dark suckling holes.
I fasten some pearls around his neck and send him off.
Grow well, little dad! Send me a postcard when you wake up.
I will have you over for a nice lunch.
We will make a toast with your new champagne glasses!
They will sizzle and froth over with our aggressive clinks.


Small and Private Tragedies

The cow was cold and yet I milked it. Under a dirty blanket
I found something warm, so I held it tightly. It was my own
hand, don’t worry. Under a slanted sky I cursed the cold and
kept on going. My mountain is called grief I say, and when
feeling toothed, that is, when teeth come into a conversation
I miss mine. I also miss my father and mother being married,
because that was when we did all this terrible work together.
Now this frost reflects my wounded mouth to me and in
the shower, under very hot water, I cackle at the thought of
things passed. I make a bird call and confuse the others. I set
the clocks back. My insanity is precious. It is a gem I smuggled
out and now it shines like a moon over this fortress.