Issue 14 – Summer 2008 – Eleni Sikelianos

Eleni Sikelianos




1 (Third hour’s residue)

3:44:45  We come to the dark double X and wonder                what does a chromosome worry
whose genes carry ovary     make a face     what name     arrive on the face  what
shape      When born   she drew a line     to the first mother   from whom
was the first mother burned    There were several shapes to edit   a knot in the knee
a string of cancer   these genes like loose squiggles of time    I mean twine
which will fray at the ankle (time)   go dust at the calf       the hour does a face   
Unsquare the hour of its making          her elbow bleeds to a wing        a sibyl 
                propped on 22 pairs of evidence             
part of an hour is erasure      like genotype stomping on phenotype
       a blur at the edges of the thought box & wet paint around the caption
her macroscopically visible aspects (46,XX)    in her haploid cell she sneezes to show she’s”th
     (the quote marks keep falling off her  )

ghosted the       teeth of                                 radiance     
                                                                                               /petals   /letters like                                                                                  the hour takes tweezers
to its hairs




what derives of the Desiring heart

cries [/    ] unfurl in the 
                            & unfold me


A snake is holding the world in its jaws, the world is suspended there.  Nothing touched the tooth, 
lips, lids, mandibles.  Nothing touched the hour, nothing touched the world.



The poem can be as risky as the body.  Male & Black, Female & White.  The body lies quivering 
with self and self-doubt.  The body covered with question marks.  (Each pore punctuated by it.)  
Lick it all over with your mirrored tongue.  I mean there is another body in the bed.  This adds 
and subtracts doubt.



I saw the nursing mouth occlude the nipple, and the person collecting there, under the eye’s delicate glass dome of the eyes.  (Identity travels
with the milk.)

I had thought the person disperses in pleasure but hour by hour the baby assembled herself there.




she       calls     I

answer swer    a swerve    a
 brush of air   I swear   a scarf
             a scarving  her answer
   answer me



(Fourth hour’s residue)


             language hangs from the hour
                                             in crystalline repose
                to set it in motion                 must we


The hour’s stalk is feathered & gay
I saw it before it arrived shoeless helpless speechless

medusa dripping poison A’s     each B a sting a stamp because because
daylight savings saddens the ghost

it’s amazing how hungry an hour can be    Hand me something
to pillow the hour, protect it    from its own devouring minutes

I had to do things to this hour I would never have wished

In the hour’s-heart’s garden of earthly delights





of all the world’s
    marsh gas
    tear gas
                              (lacrymogenic) made
            to make me cry



                shattered across the bed: baby,


             gods above    their counterparts

             below    scattered





A minute sat with gnashing teeth waiting on a rock

The human drips from herself where she hangs in time her 
minutes are bleeding    her bream     a broken-mouthed minute

as if the minute    as if the minute                broken-mouthed machine





across a mirror of time



                          the tear is locked in a wingcase                    
                                        let loose again later


                 lampyridae        a glowworm  a firefly

tear become

                my Variable Intensity Rain Gradient Aloft
                nimbostratus virga over the desert or a day

                 there’s a microburst when light particles drift
                 & clouds and tears dressed up as ice crystals melt
                 before they hit the ground




3 (Fifth hour’s residue)


the hour’s seeds scatter
I know I knew some of these stars     some of these stars
were friends                            
from the hour’s ego                       the hour’s hours     on earth

Clouds fall           the six-sided hour calls itself     hexagonal
                                                                                                     orthopedic     the hour
limps     toward its destination       the destination brain corals     I mean it
doesn’t seem to but it                 shifts

                                                                    every hour I saw      declared itself a closed system
every hour I greeted      had commerce with men          every hour I scolded            mouthed its blank (unprintable) intention
every hour geoded      into something weird and good






the problem with these hours, I said
is they are         untrained intractable          following their own whims

how could I ever gather enough (marry hour to hour)?

Unwed, its holes kept tearing, hungry, its                  rough-rag hem

Cease to describe the hour lest you smother it                        

Mother    my hours   though feeling dimensional    go flat     I lack             tricks of perspective

I sought time enough to caulk all the crevices in an hour
words gather to fill the holes

                 lashing the hour       or letting the hour be
the hour stomps       its feet on me         (triage)

I had struggled to know         when the hour began                       to mind-read the hour       to intuit its       
                                                                                                                        landscape & disposition
                    you’d need a hummingbird
                                   sucking the hour’s nectar
                           (its beak represents     through the southeast corner)

the off-centers of my hour     tangled me
                    in anthropy & misanthropy     I tried to set them straight you cannot
                    chiropract an hour        even an hour in need




Eleni Sikelianos is the author of six books, including The California Poem and The Book of Jon. A book of selected poems translated into French, appeared in fall 2007, and forthcoming are a new book of poems, Body Clock, and her translation of Jacques Roubaud’s Exchanges on Light.  Among the awards she has received for her poetry, nonfiction and translations are a National Endowment for the Arts Award, a Fulbright Senior Scholar Writing Fellowship, The National Poetry Series, a New York Foundation for the Arts Award, and two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing. She currently teaches in and directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver.  She shares her days with the novelist Laird Hunt and their daughter Eva Grace.