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Posts Tagged ‘Lisken Van Pelt Dus’

To the Empathetic Poet from the Aphasic

January 4, 2011 7 comments

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

I am rising from bed and calling it
vineyard, I am washing my face
and calling it my kitten, I am preparing

for the day which is my wife’s birthday,
and all I can say to her is three chairs
and a rousing crown of thorns, for she’s

a jolly good pharaoh, and she cries
and I cry too, telling her don’t cosset,
my lanyard, don’t captain and she’s not sure

if I mean stop crying or snap out of it.
I see the look in your eye, less
pitying than, really, admiring: such

freedom with the signifier, such constant
newness. Yes, yes, I can see you also know
this reaction is inappropriate, but still,

you indulge it. When I declare
the morning a boulder or the night
a ribbon studded with birds, you

delight in my poetic insight, as when
that child in the kindergarten class
(prompted, mind you) declared purple

to be a triangle. You claim to be
empathetic — get inside this, then.
I want to give my wife a kiss but have lost

the word. I call it a cargo and she cries
harder. It’s a matter of choice — if you, poet,
describe this vase as a book, very well,

convinced of your lyric authority, I’ll leaf
my mind’s eye through the pages
of its millefiori Venetian glass. But if I

call the vase a tree, it’s not my intention
to take you into a forest of redwoods
or to a willow beside a stream. I wanted

the vase. Yes, I’m making it new, but you,
you can name it — vase, wife, love — for all
you protest that you’re transcribing the unsayable.


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Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her work can be found in Conduit, Main Street Rag, The South Carolina Review, upstreet, and other journals and anthologies, and has earned awards from The Comstock Review and Atlanta Review. Her chapbook, Everywhere at Once, was published by Pudding House Press in 2009.

Categories: Translation Tags:

My Brief History of Crowds

October 26, 2010 1 comment

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

My first impressions of crowds were the hems of overcoats, hands reaching down, dark trousers, and skies jigsaw blue or else filled with umbrellas. The sidewalk was punctuated by black shoes like a thousand unsynchronized metronomes.

Later, packed waiting rooms. At train stations, at airports. Hospitals. Long stretches of contiguous but discrete waiting.  Today we’re in a kitchen sounds from infomercial TV suspended above us, which some people are watching with an abstracted air. Others try to read, or flip idly through magazines. Many sit at a slight angle, trying to avoid shoulder contact with those next to them.

Sometimes the crowds are part of the point. Sporting events, for example, or concerts.

Loud. LOUD. Rahhhhhhh. GO. Roar of the pack animals, roar of the arms lifted. I’m bewildered for hours afterward. In the parking lot, mounting panic. Eventually I learned to pay attention, make a note of the car’s location, physically if necessary. Carry a pen.

Where have the tightest crowds been? I have a memory of being crushed in a crowd surge — but no memory of where or when… Clamped by the shoulders, I was lifted along by collective will, pushed and pressed into whatever shape the crowd commanded. Surrender was my only option, but it was also sweet, a release, a melding of my ego into the whole. Gradually the sense of compression, of mutual pressure, changed to discomfort. My memory stops somewhere during that transition. A bellow builds, and then goes silent.

Aloud, aloud, crowd. Nowadays I like to be alone, quiet in my home.  Even the highway traffic below in the valley annoys me now. And yet I still like to go to cities. I like to enter them by train, tunnel further by subway, burrow into the city’s heart. There’s a thrill to rush-hour travel underground, everyone going somewhere, this man with his chest to your back, this woman clutching her small son’s hand as he squirms against your leg. Cities with subways dig deep, rise high, live three-dimensionally, crowds swarming across levels, between levels.  My favorites are London and New York, but almost any one will do.

It’s a homing, for one thing, but it’s also a kind of protection. No one makes eye contact or says hello, and though they don’t do that much in rural New England, either, in the city it’s different. There’s no awkwardness in staring through someone, even at them. Come to think of it, sometimes you do actually make eye contact in crowds, but it’s a detached version, as if through one-way glass. That’s why I feel least exposed in a city, in a crowd, even though that’s where it’s most likely that someone is observing me.

I’m stuck in the age-old quandary: I want to be part of the crowd and I want to stand out from it. I want to push my wheelbarrow along with the rest of the foot traffic, and I want to crow like a cock above their heads.

Fortunately, crowds judge not. They take you in whenever you show up — always room for one more — and let you go without a murmur whenever you leave, closing seamlessly behind you. I step in less and less.


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Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published this year by Pudding House Press.

Categories: The Crowd Tags:

Ash

April 16, 2010 1 comment

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

Forty feet up the ash tree,
branches begin to splay from the trunk

curving off toward light of their own.
One forms an almost perfect arch

and on its crest — an apple,
green and slightly shriveled, but intact.

It’s worthy of Magritte, no apple tree
in sight. We’re lunching on the deck

with my stepson who’s just lost his mother
when we notice it: apple as apparition.

Apple as praise for possibility, apple
as balance in abandonment. It’s Dan

who sees the squirrel retrieve it, later.
The fruit’s as big as the animal’s head,

but he leaps with it across chasms,
without hesitation, as if the air were substance.


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Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published this year by Pudding House Press.

Categories: Health Tags:

Visiting the Burn Unit

March 30, 2010 4 comments

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

for jJ

1

Who hasn’t been seduced by a campfire,
its lust for oxygen,
its lick, its hiss, its color-coded heat.

But that’s not this story.

Put on a gown and gloves before you enter the patient’s room.
If you leave, even for a moment, put on a new gown and new gloves when you return.

This story is bare feet in the street
and nothing in your hand
but a remote mistaken for a phone
when you woke to flames eating the kitchen
and the power out —

Behave as each staff member requires you to behave.
This goes for the patient also.

My cat! Find my cat! you begged the firemen.

Do not allow the patient to drink water.
She needs calories to rebuild her skin.

Lisken, you say, as if confiding a secret: the flames
were beautiful.

Patient can aid healing by elevation and movement.

You dance with your hands in the air.

2

Face blotched with blisters and raw skin,
hair shaved back and singed,

Patient has mid- and deep-dermal burns
over approximately 18% of her body (using rule of nines);

both arms swathed like a mummy’s in white gauze.

Patient will require hospitalization, debridement
of devitalized tissue, and possibly skin grafts.

Knowing nothing, I was braced for worse.
Still —

Patient should be monitored for burn wound conversion:
it may be a week or more before the wounds fully reveal themselves.

As if the fire were still smoldering in your flesh.

3

Back home, I climb Monument Mountain
to a view of parallel ridges,
a horizon announcing elsewhere.

Do not expect us to explain everything.

I am out of breath.

It will take time for us to know everything.
It may also be in your best interests not to know everything.

So much existence at once.

Do not say burn victim. Say burn survivor.

My eye focuses further and further.
You are far to the west.

Beautiful, you’d told me: the colors,
and on such a scale.


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Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published this year by Pudding House Press.

Categories: Health Tags:

La Virgen de la Candelaria

March 5, 2010 8 comments

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

1542
I came of age
the day of my first miracle —
light body of vegetable paste
become human
and healing a child
dead through the throat
with her father’s knife.
He will tell anyone who listens
that I draw angels to me
and that I am the mother
of all compassion.

1755
Feria!
Near my sanctuary pilgrims
dance, thrill to fireworks, sing,
cook, nurse infants, eat, drink and
drink some more, make love and promises,
sell amulets, candles, toys, mango and tortillas,
buy burros, ride the merry-go-round.

They have walked for days
and not slept for nights,
have visited my little well
and come to me caked in my mud
with pleas for my intervention.

Since they entertain me,
I grant it. Those who repent of coming
I turn to stone.

2001
My mud cakes are novelties for the young who are grateful that their parents at least now ride in vans, don’t freeze for the sake of a pasty virgin.

The road is paved to my door and the songs are thin. It was the music and the suffering that brought rain. I can’t do miracles without rain.

Too many are stone, lost to the colors of hope. I took it for granted — fields of fire, dancers in the atrium, the dusty taste of faith, aroma of annual penitence.


Download the podcast

Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published last year by Pudding House Press.

Categories: Health Tags:

The Latch Once Lifted

August 19, 2008 4 comments

Light opens, vertical
like your body, your
shape but growing
and glowing as who would not
want to — so
you are willing
to risk desert, the scorch
of it, its lack
of hiding places.
You’ll be a lizard
surviving
in a dry arroyo,
each yesterday washed away
by flooding light.

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

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The Lake Isn’t a Life

July 3, 2008 2 comments

but it understands
being forgotten,
has learned to remember itself —

slow heavy depths,
the overflow of night,
earth’s confidante.

Not a color either —
what we call blue, green
but a tone outside the spectrum —

liquefied light,
sky poured into furrows,
cold secret currents.

It’s stubborn —
won’t stop hammering the rocks,
stirring the land —

mottled dream residue,
the aftershock of rain,
my breath made molten.

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

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Categories: Water Tags: