Slight of Hand

I’ve come for you, cushion-soft
instead of being wrapped, we’re loose salt
and spray / solid and shadow at once

a frame brightens lime when one of us speaks—
lime for live, in medias res

I wish I could get caught up in doing
its mystique from long ago, collages
and mechanics of someone’s inner world—

there’s a grief now,
as we practice the rites of mourners

except in relation to mirrors
in which we hitch rides to other stories

birds have so much more space to fly
though we hadn’t been living in air

we want so badly for this not to be
just a means, a shared root.

Click here to read Shira Dentz on the origin of the poem.




Image: “Rock dove” by cuatrok77, licensed under CC 2.0.

Shira Dentz:
It was early in the pandemic lockdown: I was getting my bearings with Zoom teaching and all manner of human connectivity, sorting all that was being thrown at us, re-dividing tasks needed to maintain life; navigating between and drawing new lines of order and disorder, en medias res. Wild animals were crossing into public civic spaces, nature was healing, re-stretching out. Human contact involved moving back and forth between lines framing the material and immaterial, the simulation of flesh: mirrors. Reflections and that being reflected, the art of mechanical reproduction. Viral life is also defined ambiguously as hybrid. The end of “Slight of Hand” pivots on “we’re all in this together,” whether this pandemic is destined to be a shared moment in our collective history or inducement to radical social, economic, and environmental changes.

Recently, I heard Carla Harryman read for InterRUPTions, a regular reading series, virtually curated by Laura Hinton. Carla shared that she routinely writes in a notebook to record impressions for the purpose of storing them in her mind which she directly draws from later (she doesn’t draw from the notebooks). She termed her mind as an archive, and the work she read, a pandemic-related piece, was like an assemblage in motion. Her performance included details of the peopled and environmental sources of her piece’s sections; marginalia. I’m interested in where the terminology of the archive in relation to creative compositional process continues to take us; Susan Howe’s new book’s title, Concordance, conjures this too. “Slight of Hand” evolved through a sequence of free association to lines of someone else’s poem; a collaborative chance operation. Impressions and language from recent conversations, scenes, observations, and news articles that I had absorbed during the previous days ricocheted against one another. I feel a kinship with fluid archival motion in my own compositional process, a kind of indeterminate kinetics in search of convergence(s). And a kinship with Denise Levertov’s “Notes on Organic Form,” where she likens a poet to an earthworm in the way each moves through the world.

Shira Dentz
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