Lisa Huffaker’s poems appear in 32 Poems, Spillway, The Boiler, Able Muse, and other journals. Her project White Rock Zine Machine offers art and writing through sculptural vending machines. She
has been a visiting artist at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, and has an installation on view at Ro2 Art. She is currently working on a book-length project, using erasure and
collage to sabotage a 1963 anti-feminist marriage manual. Lisa Huffaker
Poem, earn me a flower. No,
earn me whole gardens. Earn me light
in the garden. A moon, maybe. Earn me a moon.
Earn me willows. Earn me a fountain for them to fall in.
Earn me stars, earn me reflections of those stars.
How much ugly would that cost? How much concrete, how many
bleak confessions, how many stillborn loves,
how many roach-infested second-floor motel rooms,
how many moldy bath mats, how many governments
gone carnivorous? How much sexual loathing?
One flower. I would settle for a leaf.
Earn me a leaf. Ah, but these are not mine
to grant, says the poem. And your moldy bath mats,
your roaches – aren’t they flowers in disguise?
Ok, poem, earn me a realization. Earn me
insight. Let the sky open. I want it
as sincerely as anyone ever did, I swear.
I’m willing to cut out anything: adjectives,
self-referential bullshit, hunger, lust, image-drunken
indulgence, anything that veers toward cliché,
which is probably everything. I’ll cut it all out,
cut out my tongue, cut off my hands, pluck out
the eye that offends. Yes. I’ll make of this page
a white cell to mortify the flesh,
and after I mortify it, burn it, make this an absolute
cremation of my ego and all my desire
and keep myself quiet somehow, shut the hell up
the whole time I swear, until I’m gone, only
give me I beseech you one flicker
of lucid rightmindedness, a wisdom
no matter how slight, even if there’s nowhere
for it to land, my mind having incinerated
to nothingness. Well our time is up, that’s all for today
says the poem. Did “incinerated” feel a little
forced? Do we feel maybe a little proud of that force?
I can see we’ve raised some charged feelings today.
You’re welcome to take a few cleansing breaths
out there in the waiting room. Take
your time. Take as long as you like.
To imagine it gone is to lift a shadow
from the floor, flood this room with absence
and that too would be holy, the echo
where a great thing was. I could stand in the space
where its dark mass once shuddered, and shout into that void
or actually, someone else could stand there and shout
since I would no longer exist, but whoever it was
and whatever they shouted, how wondrous!
Yes, anything that surges out of nonbeing into being
is a miracle – all that isn’t me, all that isn’t this
gleaming weight, the black wing levitating so heavy
in a place numberless other entities might have held, and didn’t
because this: this is what was. I am forever
conjuring up that black horse, trying
to ride it somewhere.
And it has carried me sometimes.
As a child I stood in a bright field, and it sniffed my ear
snorted and flared. I swear by my life
it approached me, willing. My hand reached out
for the shining keys, and they disclosed themselves
showed me how to turn them in the locks.
From that, the circle of doors.
From them, the glowing sphere
with its weathers, its oceans. I hung in space
tethered by something, then lost
the reins, almost always.
Did you ever see a horse’s satin flank
ripple and twitch, to buck off a fly?
That’s how Beethoven gives up on me:
I land somewhere off to the side, stunned.
Something still ringing. Seeing stars.