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Stanzas from an untitled poem


And her
red-eyed captain
won’t knock off at night. My
handkerchief may be the only person

her. She dipped it
in her glass with a bashful
sort of contempt: Here, sir, holding
the wet

to me, what’s that
? said she. Threats cannot move
her. The stars look as though they can’t
stand each

yet want to suck
each other off. They have
that nasty, rotten quality
some folks




like in
their sex star—a
virtual mondegreen of
“who’d borrow a kid” and the
night rate.

Plus, the
gathering crowd
would dissemble with them—they
stand on stools to gape, a people
I don’t

know much
about, the strange
children would fail and be
afraid out of their prisons and

day they wind their
funnels open and shut
until finally they overwind
them right

October. As
they do they become
monosyllabic, like forest




on that look of
wholesome obscenity.
Yeah, they’re creeps, juicy pieces of

stuff in
their prime, but don’t
worry, we won’t make you
do things you don’t want to. And we
have some

new meds
to keep it safe:
blood-boilers. I gave him
a taste, just a wee little dab—
why, sir,

it’s your
eye that worries
me—it’s big as a door!
(And don’t go round counting people,
they can




tell when
you’re doing that.
He hands me a list of
Latin secrets from the sick

and says,
You can’t be yelled
at by a tree—under
it, yes, but the tree can’t help it.
Oh, peek-

heart what would I
trade you for? Moldy clothes
for seven planks? The reason I’m
shy of

is because I
like them. Old tools and such.
Come on in here where we can get
it good.



Daniel Tiffany

Daniel Tiffany is the author of ten books of poetry and literary criticism. The stanzas published here are drawn from a book-length poem composed in syllabics, which writes through The Book of Margery Kempe (the first autobiography in the English language), dictated by an illiterate fourteenth-century mystic. Additional stanzas from the poem will be appearing in BOMB, Iowa Review, FENCE, Colorado Review, The Tiny, Journal of Poetics Research (Australia), Flash Cove (Australia), Iowa Review, VOLT, Horsethief, Denver Quarterly, New American Writing, West Branch, and Bennington Review.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2018

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