At last — let’s count
how many boreal stumps could fit
on the head of a linchpin, your hungry
pocketa pockets buzzing with
bewildering sooty pulp.
I’m shaking your hand,
an isolated touch
that works miracles in a crowded
room. Sometimes it’s luck,
at other times, hope. Your mind,
as I read it in your eyes,
remains the same defensive gun, quick
with printworthy asides, another
loggerhead view, dusted like gold,
eager to roll
and howl in the hunt.
For process notes, see “Vanishing Biography.”
The teacher refuses to open the door,
at odds with her profession.
Of course you know why. You answered
her questions with three
blank pages — no need to be verbal,
her omniscient nerve sees all. You write
in transparent ink.
The class turns rowdy. Roars and whistles.
You feel happy but can’t shake some lurking
disappointment. So you honk from your nickel-plated
seat like a clown.
The teacher repeats her sentence,
inconsiderate of your obvious
You swear to tell the truth — instead, a last punch
to the teacher’s glasses.
They slide off
the cliff of her nose. A spectacle, like every word
from her lips
passing down the highway
of your hyperbolic mind.
Stand outside and pull your ears!
So you tilt your head and see
the inverse sky.
Windows tipped like wings, clouds
look so soluable.
When you rub your eyes, the clouds
fall as tears. Swallow
them — they taste like salt and light.
by Greta Aart and Sally Molini
For process notes, see “Vanishing Biography“
A capella in the Greek and Roman
stacks, the woman clears
her throat. She seems to like
moderato cantabile, sings on her knees,
a babble of feeling
out of her life into mine.
Hair wild, body masking
new paperback smell, soon
she’ll be asked to leave
the slick unbroken
spines that keep in tact
days of the market god, a pillar
with the bearded head of Hermes.
Back then, you laid
a coin on the altar before whispering
a question in his ear.
The answer: first words heard outside.
Her voice is good, a chanson in some painful
minor key. Notes falter, the manager arrives.
I slip away, pay for my books. Tom
behind the counter hands
me a receipt, wishes me good night —
his eyes never meet mine, as if we shared
some guilty past. Two smokers laugh
outside the door, kicking up snow.
We’re not helpless!
yells one of them. Stamping their feet,
they go back inside, tired of being cold.
For process notes, see “Vanishing Biography“
Buddha smiles because nothing is
static, so why label and hammer
a story on someone’s grave?
There’s always that backdrop
of the next frame
even when it’s empty,
even when filled with Edith Piaf
singing, whose heart stoked every note,
whose voice knew nothing could stop
the locomotive bend of a willow.
Conditions move on —
that’s why mountains don’t grow on clouds
like the human mind does, projecting
motives onto the wind, wanting to know
whether it prefers east or west.
Collaboration in any form of artistic endeavour is not exactly about working together. It is more about trust — trusting each partner’s instincts. The phrase “working together,” so often overused, implies a measured and controlled working process. In reality, any collaboration must always fall short of such idealistic harmony before it is truly a collaborative effort. Once an effort involves more than one person, unknown factors arise, and should arise. We like to think that what makes collaboration intriguing is this element of seemingly open-ended obscurity, an inability to know exactly what the other artist or writer is thinking. Precisely because of such uncertainty, an intuitive trust can grow even stronger.
Writing poetry, like any form of writing, is quinessentially a solitary activity. When we collaborated in making a poem, the entire process was a combination of two solitudes. Each of us first began the creation of two unfinished poems; sometimes it was just jotting down some lines or a stanza or two, with the deliberate intention of leaving ample room for the other party’s creativity. Both of us needed to be sensitive towards each other’s line aesthetics, poetic “breath,” imagist modes, as well as preferred word choice and colors. Collaboration was obviously in the back of each of our minds from the start, yet we were in our own solitudes, so there also existed a space that belonged to Sally and to Greta. On “Vanishing Biography,” for instance, Greta wrote it as a compilation of five koan-like verses, each finished and complete. At the same time, she tried to have every image or line open to new narrative or lyrical voices, wrote without thinking of “controlling” each verse, and to a certain degree, did not worry about a fixed context. As we each wrote our two poems, we both realised that there was not much point in wondering how the other would respond to them, unless each of us wanted to control her response, which, of course, was not the point of our collaboration. As it turned out, Sally wove in new, accompanying images or circumstance, so that an additional layer of narrative could thread through the collage. Theme still remains, but there was now a new story, and a different energy. This surprise was exhilarating.
Greta lives in Paris, France, and Sally lives in Omaha, Nebraska, so they corresponded by email. There was some “hazing” of our “signatures” in terms of polishing, cutting, altering and re-writing, but a crucial part of the process, and what made it so meaningful, was realizing the unexpected range and creativity of two imaginations instead of one.