January 24, 2019

Four poems from The Redesignation of Paradise

Etel Adnan, Untitled, ca. 1970; oil on canvas, 18 1/4 x 14 15/16 in. (46.4 x 38 cm.); The Fund for Contemporary Art.

Etel Adnan, Untitled, ca. 1970

Keep looking until you forget what you know about cows, in other words, unhook meaning from definition like unhooking a bodice. You rub your breasts in relief and it’s taken as a sign — let’s play! — and we get down on the floor to write a poem together:

a cow is to kowtowing

what a yak is to yakking

Is there time for poems in the redesignated Paradise? Poets in the backs of back rooms keeping language from getting stodgy. When you recognize without recognition you ease up like the boss who after two drinks joins the others singing the “Happy Birthday” song, laughing and swallowing cake with one mouth organ developed eons ago in the same order in different wombs around the world. Lamp and light, the many poets compelled to write despite the beating rain of capital.


For Etel Adnan



A tortoise redesignated as a pet breaks out of its pen heads for the laptop charger, spends the night humping an approximation of its kind, like the man on the subway chomping on gum, firing off at paint spots on his smart phone. Put the world together by thought — it goes on for a bit then turns to shit.

Go ahead use the toilet — others have — though it’s broken.

Oak trees redesignated as a street name are spoken of many times a day like trusting the life of dormant seeds. Jiggle the lever, the judge is deaf so we have to shout; when he speaks it’s clear he hasn’t heard us. That’s okay, we’ll clean it up with our robot arms. Coming down the mountain justice melt.



Coming down the mountain paths doing it with four wheelers like prayers doing it with dinosaurs. Dinosaurs doing it with downsizing like rocks doing it with scissors. Scissors doing it with laws like old men doing it with girls. Girls doing it with dew alphabets like knots doing it with silence.

Silence doing it with mountaintops like time doing it with butter. Butter doing it with free markets like husbandry doing it with horses. Horses doing it with scenery like cycads doing it with poachers. Poachers doing it with propagators like chill wind doing it with kites. Kites doing it with peace process like the moon doing it with inflation. Inflation doing it with cheese like gangrene doing it with toes. Toes doing it with off-rhyme like death doing it with a switch.

As though it ends with death when it never ends.



Before later there were no arrivals, mountains came down of their own accord; plants, animals, moved up and down bearing seeds, and it was what we might call erotic. Before records and record-breaking hearts kept time as phenomena, tongues were smaller but did the job even in drought. Before tongues and the industry of sex there was sex and before sex there was no nature. Before the word nature (nostalgia) there was native, natal, whence to be born, to grow up or upon, to be born together, to perish, to be born again, naïve, nations.

Has it always been so?

Before orders coming down from mountaintops, laws as now, before a mind-spawned reality. Before war and tribunals, waste of every form, there was no outside to put a gate against and so there was no paradise, no time or stories to tell. Before stories (propriety) there was no conflict and it was what we might call boring.


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