087.1: Sophie Klahr:: Onward Bounds Our Baffled Machine, So Cheerily Into The Sun & After the War I Dreamt of Nothing but the War & beginners (rm. 205) & Diagnosis 087

Sophie Klahr's poems at once bustle with noise and are eerily quiet: “Unimaginable: the dull florescence, / canned laughter, the hush.” They take place in hospitals, living rooms, and bus stops. With disarming intimacy and immediacy, these poems are “fluent in emergency,” haunted by addiction and irreconcilable distances between lovers. There is directness in Klahr's plain yet musical language that serves her material well: “this is the living room. this is the moon. this is us kissing; that’s us in the mirror. that over there? is new jersey.”

There is also at times a certain sad, bone-dry humor. In an emergency room looking for a lover whose location will not be disclosed to her, the speaker hears children discussing Iron Man: “Iron Man can he can fly, he has guns, he can turn / into whatever he needs” and then thinks: "I could turn // into my life, that machinery, away from you.” In another poem Klahr writes: “The word Bipolar tells me about penguins.” This humor is a balm, but barely. More than anything, it exhibits a sense of control over this difficult, but compelling material. Matthew Siegel

Onward Bounds Our Baffled Machine, So Cheerily Into The Sun


Unimaginable:  the dull florescence,
canned laughter, the hush.

His sleeping weight in my lap, the nurses
like feathers. I’ve now become

a baffled machine, and he an instrument

for measuring limits—
a crowbar, a burn.

Survey:

How many days of silence does it take
to know he’s drinking? How many bottles of Listerine
will be in X apartment when X door opens? Can you
bear to tie his shoes again; can you bear the greening
bruise over his eye; can you bear how many     to know
X apartment and does it take X days   to bear   how
his shoes   does it take   many bottles   does it take  X door
X opens   does it take   of silence    can you bear  the bruise
over    X    in again, when his eye   opens  does it take
does it take drinking?  to know   can you bear



Before I stopped drinking once I
made drunk paint of blood, dripped a little story &

I wish I’d saved the pictures now, they could’ve told us
where to go from here,

but love, the hungry dark
doesn’t care



After the War I Dreamt of Nothing but the War


When the nurse on the phone won’t tell me
where you are, I turn my body into wind,

     troubling the city of hospitals.
Slang of nurses, blood numbers, legalities,

the tic of a stuttered clockwork;
our disease has made me fluent in Emergency;

at the front desks they are not allowed
to say you are here, but they do not

say you are not here, they say If he was here
would you want to send back a note?


          and I write half a dozen notes
to a half dozen possible you’s, watching the nurse

for her smooth head’s small twitch that says,
He isn’t here. It’s Mercy, finally, that has you.

And because I am not family,
I am again a waiting room crowded with sound.

Something-something-terror
jangles across the TV, our old news on a new day.

Two children, strangers, discuss superhero du jour,
Iron Man.       Iron Man can he can fly, he has guns, he can turn
into whatever he needs. I could turn

into my life, that machinery, away from you.     I won’t,
or, the story goes, I can’t, I can only be here, waiting

six hours to see your real body tremor, your real breath move
into still-drunk apologies, the ways you’ll be different now.



beginners (rm. 205)


this is the living room. this is the moon. this is us kissing; that’s us in the mirror. that over there? is new jersey. these are the cherries you bought on 14th street. this too is falling. this is you holding the pits in your palm. this is my spit. this is the wilderness. this is the hole in the story.

this is a ship. this is a field. these are the flags in the wind on the pier. this is the pattern, the sun on our skin

            to be distracted by having a body this busy the mind

this is us as material, by which I mean fabric, by which I mean substance, significant. how it feels to be written, unwritten; what it’s like to be written around.

this is us at the movies, us at the show, us in the film. this is the performance. these are our lines. this is exhaustion. this is the hudson. this is so many rollerblades so many tiny dogs. this is how many people there are in new york. this is your thumb at the ridge of my mouth. this is okay. this is enough.



Diagnosis


When we fight, your face becomes a doorway
through which I walk into a city of rain.
Nobody follows. I stand with my new blank
face at the bus stop, wanting to say
I’ll be better soon, I will be,
but impulse comes in the form of a bus
and I get on, forget where I wanted to go
what the stop is called, how to get off.
 
I’m trying not to lie.
I’d like to say something about God,
how I’ve become a vessel of change,
but I’m trying not to lie.
For some of us, there’s always a black dog
on the edge of things. I want
a neat source, one word, to buy me time,
as if the comfort of a word
was more than a whistle in the dark.
 
The word Bipolar tells me about penguins,
Eskimos, polar bears, days of whispering
through the phone, unable to get dressed,
Lois’ voice through the wires, saying Just reach out
and put on the closest shirt, the closest
skirt; two poles, “Opinions,
Attitudes & Natures,”
one certainty impossible to the other.
 
We fight until we’ve un-written
every promise into a blank page,
then lay on the rug, across
the room from each other,
heavy as victims.
Eventually, I suggest
ice cream. You agree.
It will solve nothing. 
We move into the night.