The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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APRIL 2020 Issue
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Three Threshing Floors

[or Three Invisibilities]


After we hugged in greeting on Christmas, in the visiting room at San Quentin Prison, the
first thing Talib said, breaking into a wide smile, was, “Ah, the sound of a baby crying! So
wonderful! Among the many kinds of deprivation we live with in here, missing the sounds
of the world is a huge one…”.

Then we went straight to the vending machines

With our bounty we sat facing each other on the same side of a table. He told me about his
parole appeal. We talked about his memoir and the other writing he does for trade. If
someone inside needs their story written he writes it for stamps or other necessities.

living and writing living—I am Talib’s writing “mentor” and friend

He had bought photo tokens so we had our picture taken in front of the dusty plastic
Christmas tree.

Then it was 1:50 and everyone had to be out by 2pm. We hugged good bye. Thanked each
other for the visit. And I joined the crowd of mostly families moving toward the screening
exit. A lot of people were crying. I wasn’t but I felt emptied, tense, exhausted from being
tracked and under scrutiny every second on the way in, while in, and on the way out—and I
was only there for a few hours.

On the phone a few weeks later, Talib said, “We’ve been under the fog line. It means we can’t
go out on the yard because they might not be able to see us—can’t go to the post office

You could escape or cross a border in fog, or you could be disappeared in it


In a coal cart on a track I rode
past sleeping lions
underground in an abandoned mine


The wooden cart was no longer used for coal
There was no danger of collapse
The lions were close, but docile as they turned in dreams



of spinning


extraction along the seam


chaff   dross   tailings


into what is happening
what happening is



Of the many guises of that problem: The news, narcissistic parent


delivers inertia, distance, hunger for information


Or “Being held in the mind of the mother [in utero] is the original holding environment…
Children not held in the mind of their mother are lost, forgotten.”


                             (Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma, Sebern Fisher)


If the sight of you is obliterated


you cannot imagine being seen or heard



wordless, or bludgeoned by words
worldless or on my mind


Thus the requirement:


Follow the thread as if there is an outside to the locked room of “etymological despair”



The brilliant guy diagnosing why my furnace quit in January said, “I get better and better at
fixing things and I have less and less idea why or how”


Rhythmicity—as Maria and Nicolas Torok call it



Call and response or the answer song as Tyrone Williams calls it



Buzz pollinators striking middle C, or sonication, so I’ve heard


With their white heads and tails you can spot them from far away.


“Aren’t they easy prey?”


Bald eagles are soaring up and down the valley over the river.


“No, because fully grown adults have no known predators.


They are bright so they can see each other,” I add, making it up.


“To be born to the world is for each to enter abrupt and knowledgeable into the simple or
thrashed truth of one’s materiality, knowing that that which is not destined to a relation to
the other is worthless.” (Poetic Intention, Edouard Glissant, tr. Nathanaël)


The news feeds an emergency dopamine rush that keeps us coming back

                                                                                               (Monetizing Anger, Matt Taibbi)

injects a jagged anti-rhythm, makes us

distracted unsuccessful mourners—melancholics who carry a tomb


who forge from whatever grave informs us—who might hear the answer song without the


The original holding environment before we can see each other, with the one in the dark
inside, mining, listening to one another’s turning, breathing, dreaming


The “holding tank,” then prison, muffling, secreting from public view, thwarting, thrashing


Like buzz pollinators strike middle C to release pollen, a human voice or tuning fork in
middle C will also release pollen

                                                                                        (Secrets of the Oak Woodlands, Marianchild)


“The consciousness of the nation is thus consciousness of relation.”

                                                                                        (Poetic Intention, Glissant)


In a deserted mind


formed when dead plant matter decays into peat converted into coal by heat and pressure
of deep burial over millions of years lost, forgotten, worthless, gash caesarian land     what
the lions will say on waking, how it burns


Susan Gevirtz

Susan Gevirtz is an author. Her books of poetry include Hotel abc (Nightboat, 2016) and Aerodrome Orion & Starry Messenger (Kelsey Street, 2010). Her critical books are Narrative’s Journey: The Fiction and Film Writing of Dorothy Richardson (Peter Lang, 1996) and Coming Events (Nightboat, 2013). She is based in San Francisco.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues