A n n e   W a l d m a n :   K e e p i n g   T h e   W o r l d   S a f e   F o r   P o e t r y

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 5 :   S p e c i a l   E d i t i o n






Stanzas in divination: A Cento for Anne


Make no mistake about the romantic way

holy broth of marriage

& cunt that does not ask my sins

a perfectly clear liquid like water

here's earth repeating itself

but longing puts a hole in me

water that cleans as I go

from my window into the streets

tell the man to give up tumult for the while




No way out of prison

every girl changes the pronouns of herself


hemmed in by light to some lyrical extent

this or that is not strange

did men or women please her most

as if already partners, ready, for the game

ears pounding

at bed, the desire

the stone prick



Hunched over the machine

be prepared to go underground

hold where eye pleases, unexpected bend

larynx of the orphan

cocks of high resolve

I see the crack of the world

the longitude & latitude

put in coffin cords & a bell

volcanic temper

O my life!



She sings hush go to sleep right now

goodbye everyone

midsummer breeze on my sleeves

no boats to take anymore

her tongue's silken opium drawl

illicit words arc back

it happens again

primordial cervix, rounded

you are victim in her temple

under enormous sky & stars



Against that hunger may I roam

green shoes that traipsed

traffic sweep, going downtown,

tossing from side to side bits of paper

a purple hairpin slips to the floor

brassy choir lament

a kind of celebratory dance

a wedding, a death, one small story

expands to a finite universe

the road a pearly necklace round the nape of a village



I'm the immigrant woman

closing the window as it starts to rain

I like contrasts, stripes, eyes & hairlines

going to bed in the dawn

a transistor radio through the thin walls

tell me, tell me: is the rift ever mended?

what is it like

always on a dare

they name the hurricane

a gesture in red



A throbbing matchbox

last night

you are named, numbered, destroyed

& go to other madness

an outlaw corner of your psyche

more recently it comes unglued

water drunk by empty space

a kind footnote

soul mournful to find its sister, its mate

must be around here somewhere surf hisses invisibly



What corner will you occupy?

see it splash, how everything sparkles

love the body keep it elastic

I sit alive & awake etc.

disastrous world — does it see me watching?

you just walk in up a flight and you're in paradise

a  loud fluttering of wings

it is like a movie when you may stop and start and dream

orchids. dwarf bamboo

I carried you, I knelt down for you—



Centered like a pendulum


your lyrical eye

ripped out of its mind

come on down to a riot

are you listening now, are you listening?

a platter, rain of blood, of tears

a way to take back the voice

her shadow flecked with dark

a second best bed



How long, sister, how long?

let's sit & talk about it, here on this mossy rock

can't give you up, speech, can't stop

tall dark and skinny men

they laugh with me & lift me to their faces

time is an arrow

(burned card back home, refused to pay taxes)

returning to the source of shut down! shut down!

& you bent over to tie something down

this was a child, an island, a cliff



[This cento was composed from twenty books by Anne Waldman. Their titles are as follows: Baby Breakdown, Blue Mosque, Dark Arcana: Afterimage or Glow, Fast Speaking Woman, First Baby Poems, Giant Night, In the Room of Never Grieve, The Iovis Trilogy, Journals & Dreams, Kill or Cure, Life Notes, Lokapala, Makeup on Empty Space, Marriage: A Sentence, No Hassles.  Not a Male Pseudonym.  Outrider.  Skin Meat Bones.  Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble, Tell Me About It––Chris Tysh]