Issue 5 – Winter 2003 – Rachel Blau Duplessis

Rachel Blau Duplessis


Draft 47: Printed Matter

Headlines. Canyoned rockfall of alphabetic signs and leached gemstones. Leaf Faceted 
Tod. Pebbles and crumbs of bread, long trail. Scurrying Lens. Broken glass. Four colors: 
sanguine, siena bruciata, terra d’ombra, and deep madder lake. Who dumped mercury-
tainted concrete? Cadmium Petals rattling. Turd erosion windform. Linked and locked by 
depots. Dumps that burn up bode. Poison appel; prisoned nipple. Drinking industrial 
waste. Extruded on a hill: stackwood. Oven flesh. Rath and late. Did you say range or 
rage? “Fate” as politics under a false name. Ton. 2000 pound-year multiple exposure tree. 
Infolded realism. Eclipse. Or abandonment. Mark PASQ.

Such small stakes
within the endless
“local conversation
in a universe of silence” 
Starry oddity of any-
thing must speak of that.
Particular pre-dawn conjunctions:
Two wandering planets,
two pearly limpidities
match celestial longitude
along oblique orbits. 
Strip mall recollected in tranquility.
And why not rage?
“Ford Wins Kennedy Award for
‘Courage’ of Nixon Pardon”
Headline 22 May 2001 must 
speak of that.

Non-compliant glides below radar. Consolidation of pressured elites. Minor reward spin-
off. Crisis synthesis. Endless participation in Tainted Processes. Bloopy letters pastel 
colored, outlined black. Mounded piles of scrap metal catch the light. Horny non-
dimensional underworlds. Rank body of the mother, mattering. Mutter it, mumble lost. 
Nattering realism. Asterism–post-identity constellation dipper. Regeneration of the 
cosmopolite. Haruspicating Liver as a good suburb, curved roads. Shopkeeper killed for 
cash. The solid chunk of letter proctors mottoes. Torqued glossalalias and querelous 
righteousness. Genocide Verdict for Ex-General. Industrial Grade Server needed. 
Scavengers thought it fertilizer. Cross over, arrested. Is it keening or kenning? Mark 

Incredibly important “debris and fragment”
difficult to grasp them
hard to perceive how 
                              “the social
                              and historical dimensions
                              of our innermost selves” 
flash small narratives in this labyrinth,
the so-called “labyrinth of history.” 

Want to say instead how fibers
carded, beaten, stretched and twisted
               rope inside us innermost 
               want to hold the end of this thread
and turn ourselves inside out, descending 
into corridors within the bodied mire 
inside fingers grasping, inside grasp.
Fibers made of sound and shadow
from ourselves turned open-folded
in ourselves the maze.

Woven Flax both sides of the grave. Androgynous realism. Brackish water. Clustering 
zebra whites, wind-blown, grapple onto lavender. Dug hermetic high-yield trenches. 
Acres of black tires, set aflame. Is it manna or matter? Different hands and the spotted 
horse. Nekuia in permanence. English as a foreign language. Argile Argive. Demand 
matted hypnopompic skills. Erect that vagina. Codeine drip, blue slop dropped the dose 
half in her angry mouth. Her dying. In real time, past time, vision time, in little, in dream 
time. Who crafted official denials? Toxic chemicals leach into the water table. This 
publication cannot be released. Change? Charity? Bio-tech patents and Pricing strategy. 
Smudge on the wall, the embrasure flute-lip, little abutment. If you become your own 
dead, what follows? Continuous Half-War; Headlines’ titles hail us. Who is expendable? 
Mark PASQ.

A trace of spotted light
              whose source shines outside a closed door,
              yet the light leaking through rents and cracks
through hinges and uneven fits into doorframe
spreads justifications and statistical auras. 
              There is a pattern to these arced droplets of light;
              an imprint of matter, a recurrent sight
on the stone floor self on which self warily steps.

              The government called the report back
              as showing criminal complicity
              of that same, our, government
              in the massacre,
              claimed the release was “in error”
              but it was already up, readable on the website,
              someone had put it up, all 830 pages of it,

An incalculable ratio of pages
to dead.

Who put the lists into the hands of assassins? In the middle of invented hell. In deep 
unwake. Stench of green mold fuzzed out round a rotting orange. Ball of potential 
banging down the chuckle-headed corridor. Where it goes, it goes. Is it one-
third or one-fourth of all people in “severe poverty”? Was that gazed or glazed? “Burned fellow 
villagers in a barn.” Griots–kinds of human shadow tuned and timbred with particular 
memory. That small tree grown from the back of his neck. Who leaked the documents? 
Orphaned realism. Blind and bone-deformed children. Oedipalization a permeable 
membrane through which osmosis saturates the raisin. Mouth her. Calenque knife cliff 
bulbous sandstone. Is it scarp or scrap? Scurry or scry? Can you breathe? One Graffito 
anyway was simple as pie: $$ on the wall. Mark PASQ.

Mode of “of”—asking what we are part of,
                     failed social justice.
in the allegorical
                     “light dress of a wayfarer” 
                                    ransacking the centuries more and more
disengaged and desperate, 
                     more and more on trial
                                    splitting open the locations of intensity
hoping to scry that other taking shape
                     beneath the white line of “the page”
                                    inside the pixeled luminosity of “screen”
under the fecund bumps and rocks of “path”
                     through lumps of phosphorescence 
                                    from a rotting log 
in order to engage a space beyond denial.

Find madder lake on the Colour Atlas. Dreamed words, unread. Butterfly schnozzle 
nuzzling a scabious: orange-yellow on lavender-pink. Name in red-drawn outline flame. 
Is it data or dada? Insurgent foreignness. Insistent triteness. Never enough to name; 
explosive frustrations. Dream of watching ants lay eggs. Blowing flute note, plus his 
voicing, drone and hum. Moth Fat. Vulvular zigzags. Imminent Streak or counterscore. A 
hole a line a hold a lie a limn: largesse and held. Distribution of resources. Excellent 
incentives and subsidies offered. Who planted land mines in that field? Behold: was 
through! passage uncurtailed. Did you say scream or screen? Encaustic realism: Slice of 
truth. Chromatic and funerary. Paragon? or Exacerbate? Mammal light foot engorged on 
rock face. Figures ghostly; nude equals deceased. The surplus of marks deep in schist 
makes a polemical kinship with Stone. Mark PASQ.

     Down the well throw writing made of stone
     that hits and splashes into faraway water
     from which coolness echoes, 
     way beyond irony.

     Deep in the gutter of the book
     read registers of the squandered
     and translate compulsions of rubble
     into the directness of rubble.

Controlled-risk leisure Investment Niche. Lang. surface: scrapes, chirps. Subordinate 
clause of uhh. Coding by DocuComp. Double blank admit. Offerings thrown into the 
waters of rivers, lakes, or springs. Did you say vault or volt? Stinking roots and tumors. 
In the pallid lies of the present. They thought it was fertilizer. Strip mall. Stripped her. 
Eat. Eat the dead breast flesh. Tuber realism. Who packed bodies in that truck and rolled 
the genocide into the lake? Deep matter, crawl to it, chthonic last. The waste trade. Drape 
the leather over iron, shoemaker. Clarification of detail. Spread it on the now-doomed 
fields. Killing became their skill and saleable identity. Lava flowing folded, splashing 
red-orange. Talisman of Hairs. Show maker. Sent young to the front. Look where one 
part of the machine fits the other. High Tumultuous Obsessive. More new old dream. 
They poisoned themselves just by using it. Drum her grisaille stonelike bodypinhole. 
Drum news massacres. Mark PASQ.

  Streamers of stars 
  thousands of times apart–
  what did this amount to?

  being there or not there
  a little pile of acts
  leafmold juicy with eating

  and teeming ashes
  too, their small hiss,
  the nakedness of

  a third edge opening, 
  the shadow
  echoes of light.

  Inside this complex
  is human scribbling
  scumbled unpickable

  swirlings, mounds of
  more thorns, berries
  and bracts,

  all in order, Reader,
  “to speak a language 
  which is not the language

  of those who establish, 
  enforce and benefit
  from the facts.”

New theory of the image: rage. Mage realism. Way either. Page is an artificial setting for 
what is at stake. Transverse inadequacies. Xeroxing ( with trademark dingbat) a Fax loses 
edges’ center. All the letters go to X. The headline pressure into erasure. “Violence 
erupted.” Never had a reason. Who put those guns in children’s hands? Process the 
statistics through disinformation. Stretto over Toll. Shadowy randomness at the edge of 
analysis. The sweating walls. Carve out on ledge the animal lines. Vaulted hall. Incised 
teeming. Nomadic mono-rhyme. Did you hear root or route? “Experts Fear More Talk 
Than Answers.” Engolding meltdown of the detail. Mother pouring oil. Read the spotted 
rock. Plethora. Sex tourism. Who blew the colors out but swallowed only ochre. Blood 
that turned time inside out. Other abstract. Whisper hold and let fall inchoate. Shadows 
telling stories. Mark PASQ.

“Mezzo ‘cambio’” was my first pun in Italian
                              “ecco” for “echo” my second one, 
                                             but no matter this apparent calm
                                                                           and ridiculous claim
                                                             I found myself
                                                                           in the middle of one dark word
                              after another
                              no break with full
                              deep space.

Series of embeddings and strange angles.

Writing the equivalent of incest. Develop the negatives. Stampede mother playing 
ragtime. Great clerk of typology. Scorpion was pregnant; eggs spurted as the foot hit 
down. Begun with a thing. Layered intestinal animals spastic avalanche. Mean it. Rage 
time. Wetting down the alchemical text. Retinal tears. Water on the moons of Jupiter. Sex 
tourism, prepubescent children. Was it way or wain? wagon or vector? Who ordered this 
slag dump poison talings dropped? Unstable cliff, hand over hand. Know your resistance. 
The language crust. Pushing your weight against. Incentives and subsidies had been 
offered to many industries. Will sing the song, mama. Manouvering the underneath. Mole 
realism. “There is little public outcry about mistaken policies.” Strata of cultural residue 
cold and clammy to the touch. Mark PASQ.

 Sitting locked in the thick dark rain
 half an hour
 half an hour
 waiting still
 another hour 
 it all goes by
 projecting into the future, 
 car under the hordes of streaming.

 What to do,
 being only green sticks in the long memory,
 intensely restless, tense and restless.

Break and fissure in clarity. “Low pay, zero mobility, grinding hours, verbal abuse and 
harassment.” Split seam of the earth. Drink both glasses: hope and hopelessness. Blocked 
the door, got interior window. Conversation between whats. Trapped and pushed at the 
same speed. Disposable Populaces. Phosphorescent realism. Street Artist. Spent mum. 
Call waiting. Tripped at the limen by piles of blockage. Low tech distributed learning. 
Failed political change: Yearning ossuarial. Flat darkroom in the other’s secret closet. 
Another house inside the house, a negative. That man was their mother, used dugs, deep 
rage. To go to the underneath rath, antipodes. Must Exit Here. “It was a classic pricing 
strategy.” Blow the umber thru the Tampex tube. Shaft Tor. New Domain Names, old 
domains. Mark PASQ.

                                     Button by the curb, suckled by matter
                                                                    “useless scrap its power”

                                     Filaments shaking
                                                                     voices of the dead
                                                   give speeches
                                                                     from a dark genre

                                     There was a book called “human mourning.”
                                                   It looked too short
                                                                     for all that needed to be said.

That genre was dispossession. Economics rusted out of dead capital factories. Dump 
urban corridor. Scattered and dispersed what thought? Public sperm. Mistake of 
bureaucracy. Use that rendered fat. Twisted with pity, for there’s her poisoned tit. Ballad 
journalism. 12/25/99, 2:23 PM. Unfix. Refix. Fax realism. In a hush of grammar cum 
slang. Infrastructure like the word for plaster. Insomnia: clash of paralytic non-
indemnifying structures. Codeine-sweetened pain. Clasp of the titans. Mouth-gap: words 
falling on death ears. Spelled wront. Won’t. Wrong. No “likelihood.” Trouble at the heart 
of poems. Fights over methods of reporting; loss of the point. Removing seasonal factors, 
get comparable statistics. Drought warning. Storms take out shoreline buildup. Uneven 
global distribution of illness. Long high narrow exaggerated strait door, stories high. At 
the curb, American street trash. Mark PASQ.

                                     Headlines to  rip 
                                                      off the newspapers
                             and paste them on 
                                                    the blank   page. Amnesia 
                          made them   tell their riddles, 
                                          over and     over, Printed Matter.

                                         Wallposter  journal  collage
                          might     see the pieces,
                                                hybrid,    subversive,    inchoate. 
                                 Not one    day, not one    night
                                                          goes by that
                                          this is not    before you

Heavy fonts suggest vigorous deployment of power. Those sinking under the choice they 
were convinced they chose autonomously. Mothershadow words. Clay slip under ceramic 
glaze. Sleep with her nouns if you can find them. Messianic realism.What better? 
Refugees packed in truck, air failed. Onomastic acoustic. Credit card death. Fighting over 
method, not substance. Was that ecco or echo? The economy corrects itself. Shattered to 
shards seeming more numerous than the unbroken glasses. Salary equivalence: $1 or $2 
per day. Wiry face hairs on the pig of the page. Motivated detritus. Self-sharded, rip bits 
of ownflesh. Then scatter them. Do hanging skinflay by the Earthen floor. Full Impasto 

as someone barely holding together,
scattered with the foreign wanderers 
gathers what self remains in human motion 
an effort of almost resentful will, 
and pulls up from the premature sarcophagus
to confront us.

It is the stunned face one sees in 
classic twentieth-century photographs
after certain untranslatable events.
We have seen them so much, so many
and others, yet unconfirmed, are hinted–
we have almost cracked open.

These nervy shimmers of facts, 
bits, wrecked limbs, endless
lists and new-minted losses
shout down our tunnel
blur by blur, light by
shadow, echo by echo.
We may say “all roar; can’t hear”
or “we can’t see anything clearly”
but they want us to fear;
they want us to become imprinted.



December 1999, July-August 2001
to Clayton Eshleman and Eliot Weinberger

Draft 47: Printed Matter. First headline is from the New York Times (Ford/ Kennedy/Nixon); second is from the International Herald Tribune, concerns a former Bosnian Serb and the massacre in Srebrenica of 7000 Muslims, 3 August 2001. Eliot Weinberger: “a strange music coming over the water””local conversation … in a universe of silence”from Sulfur 11, “useless scrap its power,” Weinberger on Vicuña.”Light dress of a wayfarer,” Dante,The Vita Nuova. “Debris and fragment,” as elsewhere, Walter Benjamin. “The social and historical dimensions….” from Satya Mohanty, Literary Theory and the Claims of History, 221. The headline in the International Herald Tribune: U.S. Tries to Call Back Account of Role in Indonesia Killings; the article 30 July 2001. The killings from the mid-60s. The website belongs to the National Security Archive; the by-line, Washington Post Service, is George Lardner, Jr. “…to break the power of facts over the word, and to speak a language which is not the language of those who establish, enforce and benefit from the facts.” Herbert Marcuse, “A Note on Dialectic.” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. “Experts Fear More Talk Than Answers.” Sub-Headline, International Herald Tribune, 20 July 2001. “Low pay, grinding hours, verbal abuse and harassment,” about immigrant domestic workers, Washington Post editorial, in International Herald Tribune, 26 June 2001. Jeff Madrick, “Critics Wary of G-8 Ideas for the Poor. Liberalization May Add to Poverty, Not Ease It.” International Herald Tribune, 3 August 2001, including statistics about world poverty and the sentence “There is little public outcry about mistaken policies.” The material about polluted water and factories from an article in the International Herald Tribune, 14 August 2001, by Hammad Naqi Khan. The material about poisoned concrete used as fertilizer comes from the newspapers, but I have lost the reference. Donor drafts are Draft 9: Page and Draft 28: Facing Pages.


Draft 51: Clay Songs

1. Begin here, in the old words’ must 
in sug’red sentences and dainty doors’ 
delight, such divers nosherei
of ghostly foods lend vitamin and art 
to help us fetch and crush and mix 
the petals’ bosky spice; 
Begin; and fix the word with rime 
as snow and silk and milk to dust 
inside heavy, hectic time.

me a wander
Must travel on, and large, and yearn
although my Shoe is trod
awry. The foot fall naked 
twists her ankle. 
O Lady! ladies at such limen
tripped, your double-axle poem turn,
not solely potpourri of rose 
is made in clay sketch throws, rows
thick with grit and clod.

Of your qualities to speak:
a lotus bud plump pointed on your hand
burst in every force and beat
like an ear of Eleusinian wheat.

Commentary chose the word “unnatural,” 
as in: the stiffened lotus bud
“unnaturally erect in her hand.”
There is clearly some debate.

We’re late! the sweet birds sang.
There’s so much work, they twang, 
so bittersweet.

2. Ben-Ray dots rubbed with Ben-Gay
minted time. A Fourth or Fifth July with snap 
sports plaid-ribboned marching hat 
and 48-star flag shouldered like a soldier.
Little self of the motif at the foot 
of the dad over slatted wood, near the fetters
buckling baby, with the wash on the line, flap
of prepositions, it’s all in place,
and it’s done. The photo as it was taken.
Organic fuzz becomes Detritus in letters.
It being all oddity, the endowment
of time itself-fat
but meager,
continuous, but absent,
ribbon, but fragment.

3. Who comes?
Some Woman, limping, maybe ankle
ace-bandaged hedging ropy pops of varicosity
and blue with the hit hurt marks of
mis-step curb fall, off the edge of here, 
that’s where
the round bent wicked wrinkled
wrung out women

4. O let’s go visit the old mother
it can’t be very far.
Let’s go for a turn in the old mother
the air is hair
the wounds are there
the pain is let
its tears are rips of wet.
What’s going to happen is anyway
a rush of red leaves, then a gap.
Fractal babies of Mnemosyne
entering hap,
sucked and suckled
by the distant undertow
we must kick through–
You come too.

5. us she

tires, rattles, bitches 
can’t swallow, the pill, 
fat capsule, it sticks in her throat. 
Instead of croaking in a jot
or tittle, the way she’s supposed to die, 
breaking and shaking from cancer twitches,
No, she’s just going 
to choke to death right here on the spot.
In control, the cells twist inside out,
they boss us around, they get what they want,
which is more than you can say for us.
She is pissed; insulted; in rout.
She’ll die the wrong way!
A tossup. Tit or tat.
What are you going to do about that!

6. Drenched tidings, you are my one 
you are old, maybe dead
an auslander under three layers
of elbow-tattered sweaters
you wore to bed,
rose foreigner, think bad 
denk mal your monument,
gnarled up tuneless thru the body 
wedged for yours. Knobby knuckles grasp 
odd ends angled in arrears. 
Identifying with everything, 
you are crying without tears
crying in silence
even after all these years.

7. I am hot floating
Calligraphy. A running script
on the raging subject.
19 columns of impacted writing
indexed under every letter,
billows of opposite greeds
pulse within the teeming,
wanting something large or more acknowledged
wanting the implosive detail to shriek aloud
its great painful happiness:

the “speaking-the-unspeakable” subject–
such thirst in every direction.

8. I met a prize-willing poet in his own right.
Ruse was what the doctor ordered,
bordering on the vertiginous. 
I saw two words in her poem
“cold ashes.” 
I read no further that day.
All the little urns, even the urn of a dog-
maternal dog!-
old hairy mammal stumbling into a ditch
and well-fed child flirting with her food
I will / I won’t eat that / eat this
and all the ashes un-urned
pour bloody and hot
like an air-inversion 
down into a once imagined spot.
This is a list, one single dense clay list.

9. “The story must exist in every word
or it cannot go on.”
What do you suggest?
There is a yes and a no welled up. Walled up.
Squirrels on the carrion road
and here the tufted titmice come again,
it being February, semi-spring, and keen.
“A mouse-colored bird”
its under-wings fluff pinky-rust
its seed-filled tum, buff-white;
it calls like a poet, cranky and bright, 
“Here, Here,” just off-spondee.
Intermittent, these seedy pilgrimages
arc and turn, wave-flight
two steps down the block.
In a moist and well-off corner
inside layers of air, tight buds swell
where some woman wanders
on her darkening stage,
though it’s very light and crisp,
wanders on a margin, just like the poem
in everything and nothing
in making and wanting
in coming and losing.

10. Why does it begin again and again?
Why insist on the jagged line
the lightning hitting precariously clear
the flooded splashbacks of political despair?
They say “greenmail” “whiteout” “shredding”
“We know what she wants”; they say
“we have her in our data base.”
Buy now! buy more, buy it, buy this
“Payoff.” What prison is this a view from?

“Poem” is a drop in that bucket
and promises nothing.
Can grid alone demand accounting?
Can juxtaposition suture evidence together?
Can song, a metaphor for droning, wake and sharpen 
blue edges on saffron questions?
O loom, o whetstone, What to do beside
unravel every night, temporizing cunningly.

We have “bought time.” Now what?
O (apostrophe) we are bereft, want nothing
from the bureaucracies that once suckled us.
We want an altered realm of justice.

11. In a borderland of time, in the bright hum 
of the illuminated corridor, these wanters 
walked pilgrimage to confrontation
and made themselves sing
nomadic pieces in the workshop of abyss–
Sing one continuous ribbon of desire
for rectification and understanding 
in thin light, in the light
of time, in this shattered light
the Now, in the specific
go-fast strobing of today.
But they made a double doubled song
and the voices neither 
totally agree nor disagree.

What, do we live a new reality?
one and two and two and three
Or live the same one we have always known
but did not notice it so much before
this dusty road had covered us
with dust and bone.
Born from the bud, like a full-waving tree,
overlap of times, a fold streaming outward
in banner
a green plea.

12. Wandering around between coming to be and decaying 
stunned by “the ornaments that brighten the sky,”
deep in the fosse I heard the under-earth singing
thin as mist and thick as clay
words of its droning driven inhabitants.
And saw something panning up from underneath
as if a movie lens were underground
shooting from a staring eye 
the eye of a corpse beneath the scrim 
under quiet sprinkles of symbolic soil,
ashes, wildberries, sand,
an eye addressing itself to readers.

What will it say?

that often we are gorged by need
hungrier than ever before
and more disgusted.

It will say: You did not help./ You did help./
You asked the question, that at least was right./
Alphabets can be alembic
yours were/ were not / we are not sure/ 
we cannot know but you should ask/
and did,/ 
you asked invention /
and you did invent
the forms
the strange evocatives
and mourning charms 
fomenting analytic resistances,
disobedience, energy and rage.

Arena void,
below array
stark edgy shadows, in rock, a frozen ore, 
sorts and sorting where they lay.
Some things, broken down to rubble
need to be broken further, 
and smelted into more.


February-March 2002
to Alice Notley and Anne Waldman

Draft 51: Clay Songs. The “sug’red sentence” and “dainty doors,” Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella, poem XXV (“The wisest scholar of the wight most wise”) and poem XLIV (“My words I know do well set forth my mind”). The “snow and silk and milk to dust,” Walter Ralegh, the poem beginning “Nature, that washt her hands in milk.” “My shoe is trod awry,” Thomas Wyatt, the lyric beginning “Farewell, all my welfare!” “Naked foot,” also Wyatt, the lyric beginning “They flee from me.” Description of “lotus bud” from Richard Wilkinson Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture. The word “cold ashes” from Ingeborg Bachmann. “The story must exist in every word or it cannot go on.” A distortion of Louis Zukofsky, or perhaps Robert Creeley, but not sure where in either case. “A mouse-colored bird” and other verification of titmouse traits from Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds. “We know what she buys; we have her in our data base.” Actual citation from the business page; I changed one word. “Greenmail” and “shredding” from e.g. the Enron bankruptcy scandal, 2001-2002. Wandering around between coming to be and decaying (Plato, The Republic p. 158) stunned by “the ornaments that brighten the sky.” (also Plato, The Republic). Disobedience, energy, rage are key words from the work of the dedicatees. Donor Drafts are Draft 13: Haibun and Draft 32: Renga.



Rachel Blau DuPlessis recently published Drafts 1-38, Tollwith Wesleyan University Press (2001) and Draft, unnumbered: Precis with Nomados in Vancouver (2003). The last is a “summary” in quasi-sonnet form, of all fifty-seven Drafts completed to date. Her long poem project won a Pew Foundation Fellowship in 2002. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Temple University.