Two Poems by Natalie Eilbert

Exchange III

Nina writes that love is a transactional convulsion
and I think of this as I run up N Rampart yes the men
who do not cluck at me yes I enjoy tastes of hunger still
no I do not throw up no I run toward proximal calories
yes the burn I do feel a burn it is everywhere on bumper
stickers and my chest yes the crane swallowed a lizard
whole as it continued its dance to survive we watched it
wriggle down the white neck yes I joked it never died
it only gained control of the bird chamber lizardly steering
into the sky anew yes its blue dance yes its new throat
Nina there is a tree the revelers burned here there is
a sign offering $1,000 for any information that might lead
to the arrest of these revelers no I wouldn’t have called
the tree beautiful but there is a country here I know
because of words like criminal and information but a poet
I never knew wrote I’m afraid of what the world will do
before suiciding no I’m here and remember the David
Lynch quote that tells us everything is crawling with red
ants red Xs living under the surface we have so carefully
preened yes I remember this as I stare up at the air
shaking with no-see-ums and I believe I’ve been led
to a better day if only for the effort clouding their
harmlessness no I haven’t panicked yet a train keeps
getting in the way it drives so slowly its cargo of poisons
becomes an attempt at good will no I didn’t run today
I ate a biscuit I dried out in the sun I am becoming so much
of myself am becoming a mouth no I don’t mind the ants
biting my toes it is just the red end they want it is just
another edge to overheat in to lie down in what we do
when we find ourselves in a home what is it we find
is it a word like unshackle is it a word like convulsion


Delirium of Negation

Of course I belong here now, the air is manly.

I have lost gravity between my ears

with each failure. I run to lose the calories I gain.

There is nothing to say. I describe the symptoms

of Cotard delusion to a friend over dinner.

It is a syndrome in which one believes

with certainty they are dead and further,

that they must be buried at once. They mourn

their limbs, their guts, their minds. They are

what they’re no longer, mindless bone summits.

We laugh but then there is a window left open. A clarity

disabused in the night’s unseasonal heat. I remember

in childhood my distinct trust in unreality, a belonging

to blankness that wouldn’t dust off from prebirth.

I told my mom I lived inside a story. When she told me

to draw the words, I could only lift a yellow crayon

and snap it in two, but I knew the story to be yellow.

In the earliest account of Cotard, a woman senses a light

wind on her side, grows paralyzed, and asks for a shroud.

I believe in earnest that in any given moment,

a figure will appear at the other end of the room

and I will stand up to go to him. The figure is always male.

In the trailer home I grew up in for a time,

my better self inside my better life was a velvet rod

in my throat. I want to say the body I inhabited

was its own wedge but I couldn’t stop the men

who made me into their limbs. I couldn’t be anything

but myself. Tonight someone asked how I managed

my busy days and I said I dissociate. I didn’t smile

and so neither did she. It might be too perfect

to address a syndrome that refuses to claim itself.

Not an inch of a leaf belongs to us and we destroy

every inch of it. I have trouble being any thing.

When I needed relief, I opened a window.

The air touched me as a cold spoon would my eyelid.

Frank Stanford wrote exclusively of the dead

and cocks and women and cords. I’ve stopped believing

in his wisdom, the way ideas would touch a surface

only in sleep and only as bodies. There was another patient

she quit eating, convinced she lacked intestines,

the obedient breaking down of memoir

had died for her. She died of starvation.

How is it still my blankness has evolved, whirling

inchoate in alien matter. I pronounce my hands

by scraping them through dirt. I will never forgive.


“Celebration of a new year in April — The flute player’s wooden flute — Sinn Sisamouth; his soothing voice played before sleep...”