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[ T H I S  W A S  T O  B E ]

This was to be a poem about leisure

About postures diversion & those of a person at work

From the couch I was watching Blow Up

A film, for me, principally about white jeans slashing green expanses of lawn

In one hand I had Krasdale Puffed Rice with Real Cocoa

An embarrassing purchase but to admit it

Does not make me vulnerable

I work in a university

At this time of year, to be officially welcomed

We’re invited to gatherings with huge amounts of cheese

The abundance I think is not a guess at how much will be consumed but

An investment against the look of a platter mostly eaten

With my fingers on a sliver of comté I think

What I touch has been inside the body of a cow

& now in this carpeted room

(milk being quotation from grass)

Are pastures of the Jura 

It’s the labor of those who pay tuition

That spreads their verdure within me

In my poem about leisure, I thought of a Lucy Ives poem that begins

“to all other things what I prefer most is thinking what I really think”

When at work, I feel I am excused

From needing a personality

I come & go

While time remains neutral, remains indifferent

My boss can’t tolerate Play as It Lays because the characters, she says, have no “inner life”

A savor of poolside & tears is all I’ve retained

Forgetting is de facto a kind of refusal but

Saying “I agree” was by default a lie

Regarding my own involvement, no sentence

Waves the banner of my heart

Like Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to”

Without his rigorous abstention, that is, without opting de facto to die 

It is a stance through which I wink at my stance

Now in a chair, now on the train

A tote to hold my gym shoes & lunch

In the locker room two strangers discuss someone named Barb

Who has said to drink iced coffee while working out is “not the worst”

From the shower I hear one say to the other

“When someone tells me something I want to do

I believe it”








I N  T H E  N E X T  R O O M  A L W A Y S

You will find me lying down

Oranges strewn across the floor

Already today work placed me

In time that moves one way

The nation another, autobiography a third

Each space I entered

Instructed my posture

Made me a new sculpture

This is my dream of the afterlife

An orange at the base of my neck, sacrum

Under the backs of my knees

In half light, adjacent

Our fear &

Everything wastable

Everything I was guilty of wasting









It is spring why not
place your hands
on your sun-warmed
hair a swell of ease
you can ride
now crossing
your path is
a woman in low-
slung mules
you want
what she has
easy limbs &
deft gait
but don’t you
already have this?
the wash
of grasping
a go-to
trick light
in the distance
the latest new
tower o god
to see your
giant hand
rip the sky
& work the glass
the owners
at climax ejected
into the clouds
the building
ever-mutely poking
the sun
on your chest
& the sudden
urge to shop
spilt rice
in the gutter
you think at first
bird guts?
the early day
angled down
in lavish display








L A N D S C A P E  W I T H  C A R T I L A G E

Butcher in his dark
          smock, he’s got his
fingers in the fact

of the killable body.
          Chorus of oxen
their warm necks

for millennia pleasing
          the gods. Butcher’s
storefront gone

from the streets
          of my modern-day
city. In the corner

of the far room, old
          steam heater & me
at my small desk.

Single fact of presence
          in the body, whorling
school of minnows

wall of a thousand
          gnats in one swarm.
Interior with white-blue

bloodless, nerveless hours.
          Butcher, by the river he took
the fact-struck Orpheus

into his arms & rocked.
          With his mothering fingers
I braid my hair.









Allyson Paty

Allyson Paty's poems can be found in Boston ReviewTin Housejubilat, Kenyon Review Online, the PEN Poetry Series, and elsewhere. She is from New York, where, with Norah Maki, she is co-founding editor of Singing Saw Press and, with Emily Skillings, co-curator of the Earshot reading series.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2016

All Issues